Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, and risk of skin cancer in the Nurses' Health Study

Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Sep;23(9):1451-61. doi: 10.1007/s10552-012-0019-6. Epub 2012 Jul 5.


Purpose: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been associated with lower risk of certain cancers, but data on the effect on skin cancer risk have been limited and contradictory. We prospectively examined whether use of NSAIDS or acetaminophen was associated with a lower risk of skin cancer in women.

Methods: The 92,125 Caucasian women in the Nurses' Health Study provided information on aspirin use in 1980. Other NSAIDs and acetaminophen were added in 1990. Medication use, frequency, and quantity were reassessed on biennial questionnaires. Through 2008, we confirmed 658 melanoma cases, 1,337 squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cases, and had 15,079 self-reports of basal cell carcinoma (BCC). We used COX proportional hazards models to compute relative risks (RR) adjusted for known skin cancer risk factors.

Results: Neither aspirin nor non-aspirin NSAID use was associated with a lower risk of melanoma, SCC, or BCC, even for women with high quantity, frequency, or duration of use. Instead, we observed an increased risk of melanoma among current aspirin users (RR = 1.32, 95 % CI 1.03-1.70), though an increase of similar magnitude among past users and lack of a dose-response effect did not support a pharmacologic mechanism. We observed a mild reduction in SCC risk in current acetaminophen users (RR = 0.88, 95 % CI 0.75-1.02), with a linear decrease in risk with greater frequency of use (p = 0.04).

Conclusions: Aspirin and other NSAIDs were not associated with a lower risk of melanoma, SCC, or BCC in women. Our large, prospective study does not support a chemoprotective effect of NSAIDs against skin cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Aspirin / administration & dosage
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / prevention & control
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / epidemiology
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin