Melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer, usually first marked by a change in mole color, shape, size, or texture. Helping to prevent it may be as easy as taking aspirin, according to new research findings in the journal Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

When researchers studied nearly 60,000 Caucasian women in the U.S., ages 50 to 79, for an average of 12 years, and monitored which of them developed cancer, they found that the women who took more aspirin were less likely to develop melanoma skin cancer during the 12-year follow-up than women did not take aspirin.

Indeed, the female aspirin-takers were found to have a 30 percent lower melanoma risk compared to women who did not take aspirin, even when researchers controlled for differences in sunscreen use, as well as tanning practices and pigmentation differences. The study did not find that other pain relievers, for example, acetaminophen, lowered melanoma risk in women.

It is thought that the anti-inflammatory effects of the aspirin may be what helps protect the body against this type of cancer.

If you or a loved one is concerned about your risk for melanoma skin cancer (due to risk factors, including having fair skin, a history of sunburn, a family history of melanoma, and/or having many or unusual moles ), discuss these findings with your doctor. Keep in mind that this research is still preliminary. More  research is needed, such as a clinical trial, to determine whether aspirin can and should be taken to prevent melanoma.

Do You get regular skin/mole exams at your routine checkups?