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NSAIDs may help protect against skin cancer

Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may play a therapeutic role in reducing the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, a systematic review finds.

nsaids skin biopsy solar elastosis actinic keratosis 14


Data support an inverse link between use of oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), particularly in people with a high prevalence of actinic keratoses (pictured)

The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a class of medicines used to treat pain and inflammation, is associated with a reduced risk of developing cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer, research suggests.

The systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies found that the risk reduction was greatest with non-aspirin NSAIDs and in the subgroup of people at high risk for developing SCC, and appears in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology[1].

For exposure to non-aspirin NSAIDs, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for SCC was 0.85 (95% CI 0.78–0.94), indicating a significant risk reduction. For exposure to aspirin or non-aspirin NSAIDs, the pooled estimate was also significant, at 0.83 (95% CI 0.71–0.96).

The overall pooled estimate for the ever-use of aspirin and risk of SCC was 0.88 (95% CI 0.75–1.03), which had borderline statistical significance. The estimate did not vary according to study design or method of exposure assessment and there was no evidence of publication bias. The odds ratio (OR) tended to be lower in studies conducted mostly among people at high risk of skin cancer, however.

The researchers identified nine studies that reported risks of SCC in relation to use of the drugs; five were case–control, three were cohort and one was an interventional study. Six were considered to be of high quality while the rest were low-to-moderate quality.

Adèle Green from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Australia, and co-authors, says: “Synthesis of existing published data supports a significant inverse association between oral NSAIDS use and incidence of cutaneous SCC, particularly among people with a high prevalence of actinic keratoses or a history of keratinocyte cancers.”

Further research is required, say the authors, to account for participants’ sun exposure along with accurate assessment of NSAIDS dosages and information about the reasons for NSAIDs use.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20067482

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