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Aspirin & Melanoma

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"Okay, let me look at this one."

Rebekah Walker visits the dermatologist regularly. The 70-year-old has had skin cancer five times, and is at high risk of melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"Oh, it's really scary, because it can be really, really serious. The ones I've had so far, they can remove really easily."

But the aspirin she takes to combat heart disease may also be lowering her risk of developing melanoma.

A new study in the journal Cancer looked at nearly 60,000 women over 50. Researchers found women who used aspirin had a 21% lower risk of melanoma. Taking the medication for at least five years reduced the risk 30%.

"When you reduce inflammation with something like aspirin, that might reduce cancer as well," says Dr. Jashin Wu of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

The study also looked at other pain medications such as acetaminophen and found those drugs did not lower a woman's risk of melanoma.

Taking aspirin can cause other health problems, including bleeding. Dermatologist Jashin Wu says more research is needed, and urges patients to stick with proven prevention methods.

"Things like avoid the sun at peak hours between 10am and 3pm, they can wear hats, long sleeves, and sun screen of SPF of at least 30 and when they're outside in the sun, they should reapply it every two hours."

Walker is following her doctor's advice, but she's also taking aspirin.

"It gave me one more reason to make sure I take my meds."

And she is hoping it keeps her out of the doctor's office.

Melanoma is one of three types of skin cancer. Its symptoms can include moles that change color or size, and those that have irregular borders.

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