TODAY   |  May 29, 2012

Aspirin a day keeps skin cancer away?

NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman discusses a new study in the journal Cancer, which reports that a daily aspirin can cut skin cancer risk.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there is more good news for people who take aspirin on a regular basis. a study in today's journal "cancer" finds that the painkiller reduces the risk for common types of skin cancer . dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor. good morning.

>> hey, matt.

>> before we talk about what the study found let's talk about the study itself.

>> right.

>> pretty large, 18,000 people in denmark.

>> in denmark. and they followed people for a significant length of time, and this is people who filled prescriptions for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which means the aspirins, the advils, naproxen, the acetaminophens does not get outside of this group.

>> so the aspirin-type product did reduce the risk of certain kinds of skin cancers . do we know why?

>> well, it's a pretty cool sort of enzymeateic reaction. it's very complex. but it seems to stop a certain chemical reaction that changes the immune system. and once it blocks that enzyme reaction, gives people some kind of protection. in this case, primarily malignant melanoma and squamous cell cancer.

>> were these people taking aspirin for a long, long time? do you get these benefits if you just start taking them?

>> they were taking them for a long time, several years and at pretty high doses. we looked at people from 81 milligrams, little baby aspirin , all the way up and they found that the more the aspirin -- the more aspirin that had been taken per day, and the more years, up to 16, 17 years, those people --

>> when you take this news and you put it on top of what we know aspirin does in terms of preventing heart disease and now colon cancer , we heard just last week, should everyone be on a low dose of aspirin?

>> you know i'm one of those pro-aspirin doctors. but i always say please talk to your doctor. because there are always people who shouldn't be on them. but if you've had a heart attack . you've had a stroke that's been caused by a clot or any cardiovascular disease really talk to your doctor about taking an aspirin every day. people who shouldn't be on it, children, pregnant women , and anybody with any kind of bleeding disorder, or if you're on any kind of blood thinner. and i think you're increasingly going to see now skin cancer , added to colon cancer , and as this changes, the cancer chain of events may also play out in anti-cancer properties, too. pretty cool. the cheapest thing around. reminder, buy the cheap aspirin.

>> nancy, thank you very much.