Australian scientists say that common drugs such as aspirin may hold the key to reducing the risk of developing skin cancer.
According to researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) they have obtained the first evidence that non-steroidal drugs may offer protection against squamous cell carcinoma and actinic keratoses, or skin spots.
It has already been established that some non-steroidal drugs are effective in reducing the risk of heart disease and other cancers, but now the team of epidemiologists have discovered the link through a local study, the Nambour Skin Cancer study, which surveyed about 1,000 residents in the south-east Queensland town.
Dr David Whiteman of the QIMR, says the result has been found in patients who have taken drugs such as aspirin or Ibuprofen at least twice a week over five years.
He says it is already known that skin cancers produce an enzyme that is used by cancers to develop blood vessels which grow by burrowing down into the skin, and what aspirin does is prevent that enzyme from working by completely blocking its activity.
However Dr Whiteman does say that while the findings are optimistic, a bigger study needs to be done.
He says the research may lead to new strategies, particularly for people at very high risk of skin cancer, and the development of new drugs.
Almost 400,000 Australians are treated for non-melanoma skin cancer each year and malignant skin cancers kills about 1,300 people nationally.