Several large scale research studies have shown that simple measures such as taking a multivitamin, taking anti-inflammatory medication and drinking 3 or more cups of coffee can reduce the risk of cancer (multivitamins) or reduce the risk of skin cancer (coffee and anti-inflammatory medication) . Is it time to incorporate these changes in your daily routine? Here is the evidence for and against:
Multivitamins: A study of 15,000 men, randomly assigned to take Centrum Silver or placebo, showed an 8% reduction in the risk of developing cancer in the vitamin group compared with the placebo group. The researchers cautioned that the reduction in risk was small and that the main cancer prevention strategies remain quitting smoking, avoiding obesity, eating a healthy diet and keeping physically active. Since taking a multivitamin daily is so simple, this is a health measure to start doing, if you are not already doing so.
Coffee: Using data from the Nurse’ sHealth Study the risk of development of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma in relation to caffeine intake. Compared with individuals who consumed caffeinated coffee less than 1 cup more month, toshoe who drank more than 3 cups/day and the lowest risk of basal cell skin cancer. Caffeine from tea, cola and chocolate was also associated with a lower risk of BCC. Caffeine intake was not associated with decrease in the risk of melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma. If you are at risk of developing skin cancer due to having fair skin, prior sunburns or excess sun exposure and you do not have a history of gastrointestinal side effects from coffee, modestly increasing coffee intake from 1 or 2 cups to 3 cups/day may be a good idea.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : Non- Steriodal anti-inflammatory medications (such as Motrin , Advil, Mobic, etc) work in the body by blocking cyclo0oxygenase (COX) enzymes which promote inflammation and inhibit the bodies anti-tumor defense. A study of a Danish cohort of more than 70,000 individuals over 20 year’s time showed an inverse correlation between skin cancer and use of NSAID’s. Those who used NSAID’s for more than 7 years at least 25% of the time, had a 46% decreased risk of melanoma , a 35% decreased risk of squamous cell cancer and a 17% decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma.
In a separate study, use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) was associated with a decreased risk of basal cell cancer, but only on the body.
Another recently published study using data from >90,000 women in the Nurse’s Health Study found no skin cancer prevention benefit of aspirin or NSAID’s. More studies will need to be done before a recommendation can be made.
Known causes of skin cancer include indoor tanning, severe sunburns, excess sun exposure over years and probably smoking. Protection against the sun and not smoking remains a good strategy for avoiding skin cancer