DEC 06, 2017 03:17 PM PST

Common Hypertension Drug Could Up Skin Cancer Risks by 7-Fold

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Image credit: Pixabay.com

One of the most common drugs taken for high blood pressure could be raising the risk of skin cancers by seven times, according to a new report.

As a high blood pressure (hypertension) drug, hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is a diuretic. In essence, HCTZ promotes the increased production of urine, thereby relieving water retention and high blood pressure. The drug became commercially available in 1959, and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. Now, the drug is one of the most ubiquitously prescribed medications for hypertension – in the US alone, HCTZ was the second most commonly used drugs for hypertension in 2008.  

Known side effects of HCTZ include electrolyte imbalances and poor kidney functions. But the drug could have a darker impact on the health of patients.

Based on previous research that cite a link between HCTZ and lip cancer, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, began digging deeper. They formally tested the hypothesis in a large sample, consisting of over 80,000 patients with skin cancer and 1.5 million healthy patients. In both groups, the team analyzed HCTZ use, as well as use of any other high blood pressure medications.

Based on their analysis, the team reported that people who regularly take HCTZ had more than seven times the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Importantly, the risks were increased for squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, two types of skin cancer that are less aggressive than melanoma.
 

The results support other findings that show HCTZ can make the skin more prone to ultraviolet radiation damage.

"We knew that hydrochlorothiazide made the skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun's UV rays, but what is new and also surprising is that long-term use of this blood pressure medicine leads to such a significant increase in the risk of skin cancer," said Anton Pottegård, an associate professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Southern Denmark, and the study’s senior author.

This finding could have big ramifications for the use of HCTZ for patients living in intensely sunny parts of the world, such as Florida. "The combination of living and residing in sunny Florida while taking hydrochlorothiazide seems to be very serious and even life-threatening for some patients," said Dr. Armand Cognetta, chief division of dermatology at Florida State University in Tallahassee and the study’s co-author.

"We have seen and followed many patients with different skin cancers where the only risk factor apart from exposure to sunlight seems to be hydrochlorothiazide," he added.

But as with any medications, the benefits and side effects must be carefully considered for every individual. "The risk of skin cancer must, of course, be weighed against the fact that hydrochlorothiazide is an effective and otherwise safe treatment for most patients,” said Pottegård. In short, patients on HCTZ should talk to their doctor before making any adjustments to their treatment regimen.

"Nevertheless our results should lead to a reconsideration of the use of hydrochlorothiazide. Hopefully, with this study, we can contribute towards ensuring safer treatment of high blood pressure in the future,” he said.

Additional sources: MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 05, 2018
Cancer
JUN 05, 2018
Early Breast Cancer Patients Do Not Gain Response Advantage with Chemotherapy
Phase III clinical trial research shows evidence that early breast cancer patients with common breast cancer type do not need chemotherapy & hormone therapy combo; hormone therapy is enough...
JUN 05, 2018
Cancer
JUN 05, 2018
Precision vs. Personalized Medicine Part I: Precision Approach
So often the phrases "Precision Medicine" and "Personalized Medicine" are used interchangeably. Are they really synonyms? Part I looks at Precision Medicine...
JUL 30, 2018
Cancer
JUL 30, 2018
Key Markers in Melanoma Disease Progression
Researchers have found key markers in identifying the progression of melanoma by stages....
AUG 21, 2018
Cancer
AUG 21, 2018
Theranostics.....Heard of it?
Theranostics is an emerging field that combines therapeutics and diagnostic capabilities into one opportunity for treatment of diseases, especially cancer....
SEP 06, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 06, 2018
The Oncomicrobiome - Linking Microbes and Cancer
Scientists want to know more about how the microbes we carry in and on us are related to cancer development....
SEP 15, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 15, 2018
Cancer & Anoikis: A Match Not Made in Heaven
Anoikis have always been intimately entwined with cancer, henceforth the quest to seek how they came to be as such....
Loading Comments...