Safe, effective OTC drugs prevent skin cancer too

I place aspirin and ibuprofen on a very short list of drugs (growing ever shorter by the day) that I would ever recommend. And I always keep a watchful eye out for new research about these two old standbys. One new study especially caught my attention. It found if you use either of these two drugs for pain, you might be lowering your risk of developing a common form of skin cancer.

These two drugs belong to the category of pain relievers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They also both inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), an enzyme responsible for pain and inflammation in the body.

This new finding about skin cancer came to light after researchers discovered that the body produces excess COX-2 when exposed to chronic ultraviolet radiation. So they began to wonder if inhibiting COX-2 could also reduce skin cancer risk.

In a large meta-analysis, the researchers looked at nine studies involving men and women who took aspirin and non-aspirin NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen) for pain relief. Then, they looked at squamous cell skin cancer rates among these users.

They found that men and women who took any type of NSAID had an 18 percent lower risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer than those who didn’t take the drugs.

Some men and women in the study only used aspirin, and they reduced their skin cancer risk by an average of 12 percent. That amount might seem small. But among the studies analyzed, one was a controlled clinical trial, which revealed a dose-response benefit with aspirin. In other words, the more aspirin the user took, the greater the protection against squamous cell skin cancer.

Of course, aspirin derives from ancient herbal remedies made with the white willow tree and meadow sweet grass. And it has many benefits beyond pain and fever relief, including cardiovascular benefits. In fact, in late 2014, I debunked a pseudo-controversy about taking daily, low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease.

Research conducted over several decades consistently links daily, low-dose aspirin (80 mg per day) with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. And some of the best researchers in the world conducted these large, prospective cohort studies (the strongest kind of epidemiological studies) on aspirin. So I have no reason to doubt their findings.

I suspect big pharma ultimately lies behind these attempts to taint the strong evidence for aspirin (as well as vitamin B, vitamin D, and metformin). They want doctors to prescribe new, expensive, and dangerous drugs instead of recommend natural approaches, or generic proven drugs, to prevent disease.

For example, why would you take a dangerous, ineffective statin drug to prevent heart disease and heart attacks when you can get the real benefits from a little aspirin?

These new, suddenly discovered “controversies” about long-proven remedies and research remind me of the “Philadelphia lawyer” who has an indefensible case to argue. He can’t argue the facts because the facts are against him. He can’t argue the law because the “laws”–in this case the laws of Nature–are against him. So, all he can do is sow confusion and doubt, as the scoundrel lawyer Bartolo did in the tales and operas about Figaro, the Barber of Seville. But don’t let big pharma use these fake controversies to take you to the barbershop.

Of course, ibuprofen came onto the market much more recently than aspirin. But it represented a rare therapeutic breakthrough in the early 1980s. For the first time, people found safe, effective pain relief by using a drug other than aspirin.

Today, you can get ibuprofen as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug in 200 mg doses. But sometimes, 200 mg of ibuprofen just isn’t enough to manage pain effectively. In those cases, you can get a prescription for 800 mg doses.

And before I go, did you notice that this new meta-analysis had nothing good to say about another so-called pain-reliever–acetaminophen?

As I’ve said many times, there’s no reason to take acetaminophen. Ever. Period.

It has many toxic side effects, including fatal liver failure. And it doesn’t even appear to work at all for common pains like lower back and shoulder pain. You can find this poison hiding out in combination pain-relievers, where it’s paired with another drug that actually does relieve pain.

Thankfully, the FDA is finally cracking down on these combos. But why take a dangerous, worthless drug at all?

Research shows you can get all the help you need, and then some, by using the old standbys aspirin and ibuprofen. And if you suffer from long-term pain, go for a high-quality supplement with the ancient trio of boswellia, turmeric, and ashwaganda (Winter Cherry).


  1. “Aspirin and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Can Prevent Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Investigative Dermatology ( 12/18/2014