Aspirin helps with sunburn, but it's no substitute for common sense

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

May 02, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

Why isn't more attention given to the best sunburn preventive, aspirin?

Before a heart attack in 1978, I suffered from sunburn with blisters every year. Starting in 1978, I have taken a coated aspirin daily to prevent another heart attack. I have not had a sunburn since then.

My skin temporarily reddens, without pain or blistering, and eventually tans. A study on aspirin several years back revealed that aspirin increases the skin's resistance to sunburn.

Nothing can really prevent a bad burn if someone spends too much time in direct sunlight. There is, however, some science to back up your experience.

Researchers in Germany found that aspirin offered protection against redness caused by the sun, but it is incomplete. No one should substitute aspirin for sunscreen, protective clothing or limited sun exposure.

My gynecologist claims the big study (Women's Health Initiative) on hormone replacement therapy -- HRT -- is deeply flawed. He says this is the view of the OB / GYN community. He believes women on HRT should continue to take HRT indefinitely for bone strength and whatever heart benefits might ensue.

I've taken HRT for more than 15 years, first for relief from menopause misery and subsequently on advice that it will protect my heart and bones. My doctor insists the risks are minimal for women with no history of breast cancer.

I am concerned about continuing these medications indefinitely, as my doctor recommends.

Unlike previous studies of the benefits and risks of postmenopausal hormones, the Women's Health Initiative was a very large, long-term experiment. Some women took hormones, and others got identical-appearing placebos. This type of study is the gold standard.

The researchers concluded that combination HRT increases the risk for breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia. Overall, they found more risk than benefit associated with these hormones.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site,

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