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Widely Used Arthritis Pill Protects Against Skin Cancer

Posted Dec 02 2010 9:18pm

Cancer caused by sunlight accounts for about half the cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S.
A widely used arthritis drug reduces the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers – the most common cancers in humans – according to a study published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib (brand name Celebrex), which is currently approved for the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and acute pain in adults, led to a 62 percent reduction in non-melanoma skin cancers, which includes basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.

Celecoxib, a prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), reduced basal cell carcinomas by 68 percent and squamous cell carcinomas by 58 percent in patients at high risk for skin cancer. The decrease in the incidence of these cancers is much greater than that achieved through the use of sunscreen, which provides only moderate protection against squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas.

“For individuals who are at very high risk of skin cancer, this may be a method to reduce the number of new tumors they develop, despite the drug’s known side effects,” said Alice Pentland, M.D., study author and chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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