Photo: Courtesy of advil.comApril Daniels Hussar, SELF magazine
Did you have a little too much fun in the sun over Memorial Day weekend? Turns out that ibuprofen you took the morning after just might be helping you with more than your margarita headache, according to a new study.
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The study, led by researchers from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark and published online in the journal CANCER, looked at the effects of aspirin and other commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen on three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. The researchers found that NSAID users were 15 percent less likely to get squamous cell carcinoma and 13 percent less likely to get malignant melanoma. The protection was stronger for people who had been taking aspirin or ibuprofen for at least seven years, at least twice a week.
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"This is an exciting study," Marina Peredo, M.D., F.A.A.D, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and founder of Marina I. Peredo, M.D., P.C. Dermatology and Spatique Medical Spa in Smithtown, N.Y., tells HealthySELF. "This is the first time we're seeing something like this for skin cancer," she says, adding that it's important to note that painkillers were not shown to help with basal cell carcinoma, which, she says, is the most common of the three types of skin cancer (though melanoma is the deadliest).
"If something doesn't protect you against all three types of skin cancer, it's not going to provide a huge benefit," she says. Though this is potentially good news for people who are at high risk for skin cancer, such as those with a family history of melanoma, Dr. Peredo says, "This is just one study, and more research needs to be done in this area."
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Bottom line: Dr. Peredo does not recommend that you start taking aspirin or other painkillers regularly just for the potential protection against skin cancer, unless it's something that your doctor recommends. "If you're already taking [NSAIDs], this could be an added side benefit," she says. But suddenly starting a regime of taking aspirin or ibuprofen is "something that would need to be evaluated on an individual basis to make sure that the benefits outweigh the risks."
In the meantime, what's the BEST way to keep yourself safe from all forms of skin cancer? "Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock!" says Dr. Peredo. "Sunblock and regular exams."
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