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Carcinogenesis. 2013 Feb;34(2):370-7. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgs349. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

Preventative topical diclofenac treatment differentially decreases tumor burden in male and female Skh-1 mice in a model of UVB-induced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

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Department of Pathology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Ultraviolet B (UVB) light is the major environmental carcinogen contributing to non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) development. There are over 3.5 million NMSC diagnoses in two million patients annually, with men having a 3-fold greater incidence of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) compared with women. Chronic inflammation has been linked to tumorigenesis, with a key role for the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme. Diclofenac, a COX-2 inhibitor and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, currently is prescribed to patients as a short-term therapeutic agent to induce SCC precursor lesion regression. However, its efficacy as a preventative agent in patients without evidence of precursor lesions but with significant UVB-induced cutaneous damage has not been explored. We previously demonstrated in a murine model of UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis that when exposed to equivalent UVB doses, male mice had lower levels of inflammation but developed increased tumor multiplicity, burden and grade compared with female mice. Because of the discrepancy in the degree of inflammation between male and female skin, we sought to determine if topical treatment of previously damaged skin with an anti-inflammatory COX-2 inhibitor would decrease tumor burden and if it would be equally effective in the sexes. Our results demonstrated that despite observed sex differences in the inflammatory response, prolonged topical diclofenac treatment of chronically UVB-damaged skin effectively reduced tumor multiplicity in both sexes. Unexpectedly, tumor burden was significantly decreased only in male mice. Our data suggest a new therapeutic use for currently available topical diclofenac as a preventative intervention for patients predisposed to cutaneous SCC development before lesions appear.

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