Health Buzz: Common Painkillers Protect Against Skin Cancer

Will you get skin cancer? Plus, get some sleep to lose weight

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Study: Common Pain Medications Could Lower Skin Cancer Risk

Common painkillers could help protect against skin cancer. A new study by Danish researchers found that people who regularly took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen were less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma, compared to those who rarely used the medications. The people most likely to benefit were those who took the painkillers at high doses and for years at a time, according to findings published today in the journal Cancer. "NSAIDs work by inhibiting specific enzymes involved in inflammation," study author Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir, from Aarhus University Hospital, told Reuters Health. "Previous studies show that elevated levels of these enzymes are found in skin cancer and that they are involved in important steps of cancer development such as inhibition of cell death, suppression of the immune system, and stimulation of invasiveness and blood vessel growth." Still, more research is needed, and the best way to prevent skin cancer is using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding the sun between peak hours.

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  • 1 in 5 Americans Will Get Skin Cancer. Will It Be You?

    You know you've reached the zenith of pop culture zaniness when Saturday Night Live parodies you. That's exactly what happened to Patricia Krentcil, the overly bronzed New Jersey mom facing second-degree child endangerment charges for allegedly allowing her then five-year-old daughter into a tanning booth. Audiences across America may have laughed at an Oompa-Loompa orange Kristin Wiig spoofing the infamous "Tanning Mom," but doctors say that this is no laughing matter.

    A new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reveals that 50 percent of young adults ages 18 through 29 say they've had at least one sunburn in the past year. "A sunburn is a form of sickness or poisoning," says Cynthia Bailey, a dermatologist practicing in Sebastopol, Calif. "Both a sunburn and a suntan indicate that ultraviolet rays have caused free radicals to form within the skin and DNA damage has occurred." And this, in turn, can lead to skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.

    Sun seekers aren't the only ones putting themselves at risk. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that some 28 million Americans tan indoors each year, and the age of frequent users is getting younger and younger. A study also conducted by the CDC and NCI found that nearly a third of white women ages 18 to 21 regularly use tanning beds, averaging about 28 visits in 2010. "Ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices [and the sun] is just as carcinogenic to humans as tobacco smoking," says Delphine Lee, a dermatologist and director of translational immunology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. "Studies found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who had been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning before the age of 35." [Read more: 1 in 5 Americans Will Get Skin Cancer. Will It Be You?]

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    •  Want to Lose Weight? Get Some Sleep

      It sounds like a dream: getting to bed early for a good night's sleep. But our "to-do" list seems to inevitably get in the way; a work deadline you can't ignore, emails to catch up on, a child needing your attention—all can sidetrack you from getting solid hours of slumber.

      Indeed, hyper-busy, working Americans are finding it difficult to carve out time for the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailed results of a 2010 survey, which found that 30 percent of working Americans reported sleeping an average of 6 or fewer hours per day, with night-shift workers logging fewer winks than day-shift workers.

      So what's the harm in skimping on an hour or two of sleep each night? Appetite-controlling hormones get thrown out of whack and cravings for unhealthy foods intensify, says Jerry Kram, medical director of the California Center for Sleep Disorders in Alameda, Calif., contributing to weight gain and perhaps even predisposing the body to diabetes. "There isn't a substitute for an adequate amount of sleep," he says.