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Celecoxib may stop skin cancers

Some skin cancers could be prevented with a controversial arthritis drug, new research has suggested.

Scientists in the US said they found that celecoxib cut the likelihood of pre-cancerous abnormal cells creating non-melanoma skin tumours.

The medicine, sold in the UK as Celebrex, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, targeting the cyclo-oxygenase 2 enzyme, which is thought to help develop non-melanoma skin cancers triggered by too much exposure to the sun.

Research published four years ago indicated that celecoxib may be linked to increased heart attack and stroke risk in patients.

Celecoxib belongs to the same drug family as Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market because of similar worries.

US scientists conducting the new study looked at the effect of celecoxib on 240 people who already had actinic keratosis, pre-cancerous skin damage.

The drug did not alter the number of lesions appearing after two months of treatment but by the end of the trial participants taking celecoxib had significantly fewer non-melanoma skin cancers than those given a placebo pill.

Craig Elmets and colleagues, from the University of Alabama, wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: "The findings of this study, which showed that the celecoxib-treated individuals developed fewer non-melanoma skin cancers than placebo-treated individuals, suggest that cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors may provide an additional benefit to sunscreens in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancers."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Journal of the National Cancer Institute