Blood Pressure Medication May Raise Cancer Risk

A recent Danish study found a correlation between skin cancer risk and a common blood pressure medication called hydrochlorothiazide. The researchers already knew there was a correlation between this medication and lip cancer, so they decided to take their research a step further and look at skin cancer risk. They found an alarming sevenfold risk of skin cancer in individuals that take the drug.

The researchers studied records from hundreds of thousands of Danish patients. They looked at how hydrochlorothiazide prescription overlapped with skin cancer diagnosis. Each patient they studied had taken in at least 50,000 milligrams of hydrochlorothiazide during his or her lifetime. The researchers found that over 2.7 percent of patients with basal cell carcinoma had used the blood pressure medication for at least six years, while only 2.1 percent of healthy patients had used it. They also found that ten percent of patients with squamous cell carcinoma had used hydrochlorothiazide.

The scientists chose to look at skin cancer risk because they knew that taking hydrochlorothiazide increases one’s susceptibility to damage from UV rays. They wanted to know if they could find a direct correlation with skin cancer.

The study had some major limitations. For example, the researchers did not control for skin type or lifestyle habits. People with paler skin are more likely to get skin cancer, as are those who choose to sunbathe or use tanning beds. Because of the study’s drawbacks, the scientists caution people not to jump to conclusions. They emphasize that the study does not prove that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the drug and skin cancer. Experts recommend that to avoid skin cancer, one should use sunscreen every day and avoid tanning beds.

Hydrochlorothiazide goes by many different brand names including Aquazide, Esidrex and Hypothiazid. It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications globally.