Monday, March 11, 2013

Can Use Of Aspirin Help Prevent Deadly Melanoma?

by Andrea L. Algar

One of the largest studies of its kind has shown promising findings that regular use of aspirin may lower the risk of developing melanoma. An agressive form of cancer that invades skin cells, many melanomas can turn deadly. Melanoma has been increasing dramatically in prevalence and has become one of the most worrisome cancers because of this. One in 50 will develop melanoma in their lifetime, and the average lifespan for those with advanced melanoma is only one year. It is the fastest growing cancer all around the world.

Melanoma Skin Cancer
Photo Courtesy: Skin Cancer Foundation
Previous studies have not been as large, or as focused. Almost 60,000 caucasian women were studied, primarily because the cancer seems to effect more fair skinned people. According to today's Everyday Health article, "They found that women who took aspirin had a 21 percent lower risk of melanoma compared to those who did not take the drug. And the longer the women used aspirin, the lower their melanoma risk. Those who took aspirin for five or more years had a 30 percent lower chance of developing melanoma than the ones who didn't take it at all. The researchers were able to control for skin cancer risk factors among the women, including variations in skin pigmentation, tanning habits and use of sunscreen."

While this news is promising, daily use of aspirin does carry it's own risks. For many years "baby" doses of aspirin has been recommended for men and women who have cardiovascular disease or are at risk for it. While it cannot be said with certainty that the risk of taking aspirin would outweight the potential benefit, it is an option worth discussing with your physician.

How to Spot Melanoma:

Symptoms of melanoma can vary, and they can develop quickly so it's important to identify them. Not all skin cancers are melanomas. Melanomas are more dangerous because they spread. Melanoma of the skin is called Cutaneous Melanoma and is the most common type. Other types of melanoma can occur in mucous membranes including nose, throat, mouth and are called Mucosal Melanoma. The third type is melanoma of the eye and is called Ocular Melanoma. The Melanoma Research Foundation recommends that you look for the following signs:
  • A change on the skin. This could be a new spot, or a change in color, shape or size of a current spot.
  • A sore that doesn't heal.
  • A spot or sore that becomes painful, itchy, tender or bleeds.
  • A spot or lump that looks shiny, waxy, smooth or pale.
  • A firm red lump that bleeds or appears ulcerated or crusty.
  • A flat, red spot that is rough, dry or scaly.
As a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Young has identified melanomas on patients with increasing frequency. He states, "If you suspect that you may have a melanoma, you should consult with a dermatologist who is trained to identify and treat skin conditions such as melanoma. It is recommended that men and women have yearly whole body exams which include scalp and the bottoms of the feet since melanomas can occur on just about every part of the human body. As in most types of cancer, treatments are more successful when the cancer is caught early."
Everyday Health: Melanoma Risk Drops 21 Percent In Women Who Take Aspirin

American Cancer Society -  Melanoma Skin Cancer
Mayo Clinic - Melanoma Pictures To Help Identify Skin Cancer (Slide Show)
Melanoma Research Foundation:  What Is Melanoma
Skin Cancer Foundation - Melanoma Information

Dr. Robert N. Young is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with over 30 years of experience. His San Antonio practice includes a AAAASF accredited outpatient Surgery Center staffed with qualified Registered Nurses, Anesthesiologists and surgical technicians.

Andrea L. Algar is a contributing author to Dr. Young's blog dealing with issues on cosmetic plastic surgery. She has been working in the medical community for over 30 years, and authors articles on a variety of health, beauty and leisure topics.