Aspirin as a chemopreventive agent for cutaneous melanoma: a literature review

Arch Dermatol Res. 2024 Jun 8;316(7):367. doi: 10.1007/s00403-024-03056-3.


Rising melanoma rates have spurred interest in preventive strategies. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly aspirin, show potential in reducing cancer risks. NSAIDs act on cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, impacting COX-2 associated with inflammation and cancer progression. This paper explores aspirin's role in cutaneous melanoma prevention, elucidating its mechanisms and acknowledging varying literature outcomes. Rather than providing conclusive recommendations, the review emphasizes the influence of individual factors, contributing to the ongoing dialogue on aspirin's complexities in melanoma prevention. A PubMed search using "Aspirin" AND "Cutaneous melanoma" yielded relevant English-language, peer-reviewed studies. Selection criteria focused exclusively on skin cancers, specifically cutaneous melanoma. Exclusions included studies covering various cancers, some non-dermatologic, and those not evaluating aspirin use independently but in conjunction with NSAIDs. The potential chemopreventive effects of aspirin and NSAIDs against melanoma have gained attention due to their association with a reduced risk of various cancers including gastric, colorectal, and breast. By inhibiting COX enzymes and the NF-κB pathway, these agents theoretically slow malignant cell activities, presenting a prospect for cancer prevention. Aspirin exhibits noteworthy effects, depleting growth-stimulating hormones, generating reactive oxygen species harmful to cancerous cells, and inhibiting COX-2 linked to cancer progression. Limited literature suggests survival benefits with aspirin use in stage II and III melanoma, possibly due to slowing disease progression, evident in smaller Breslow depths. Gender-specific responses to aspirin are notable, with some studies reporting a stronger chemopreventive correlation in females. It's crucial to note that geographic disparities, demographic cohorts, and individual-specific factors are confounding variables that may contribute to conflicting findings regarding aspirin's impact on melanoma. The association between aspirin use and melanoma risk is complex, with conflicting findings across diverse populations. Although it appears that more studies suggest a protective role for aspirin rather than not, evidence lacks consistency. Factors such as gender, geography, race, sun exposure, and health conditions play a role in shaping these varied outcomes, necessitating large-scale, prospective studies research and standardized parameters for more conclusive insights that may help guide tailored clinical strategies for melanoma prevention.

Keywords: Aspirin; Chemoprevention; Melanoma; Melanoma prevention; Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; Skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / therapeutic use
  • Aspirin* / pharmacology
  • Aspirin* / therapeutic use
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma* / prevention & control
  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant
  • Skin Neoplasms* / prevention & control


  • Aspirin
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 2