All of These Common Blood Pressure Medications May Increase Your Cancer Risk

Nurse checking a patient's blood pressure

Nurse checking a patient’s blood pressure | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

Hypertension is a serious health issue affecting millions, and Mayo Clinic reminds us it’s also a huge risk factor for the development of heart disease. With that said, it’s important to get high blood pressure under control if you have it — and for many, that’s achieved through medication. There are side effects to any prescription, of course, and you should always make sure your doctor goes over the risks. But there’s another possible risk factor you may not be aware of — and that’s the development of cancer.

The FDA recalled several drugs containing valsartan as an active ingredient

On July 17, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration placed a voluntary recall on the following high blood pressure and heart failure medications, according to Fox 5 DC:

  • Valsartan from Major Pharmaceuticals
  • Valsartan from Solco Healthcare
  • Valsartan from Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd.
  • Valsartan/Hydrochlorothiazide from Solco Healthcare
  • Valsartan/Hydrochlorothiazide from Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd.

The FDA said these medications contained an impurity that was classified as cancer-causing to humans. Keep in mind that while all the medications recalled have the active ingredient valsartan, not every product containing this ingredient has been called into question. Make sure you look at the name of your medication and company on the label to determine if yours is on the list.

Angiotensin-receptor blockers may increase cancer risk

Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) work to treat hypertension and heart failure by blocking a hormone that can increase blood pressure, WebMD explains. One trial reported those who were taking Candesartan, an ARB, may be at a significantly increased risk of developing fatal types of cancers. Researchers who were a part of the trial believed anyone taking an ARB may also see the same risk — and it should be noted that valsartan is in this class of drugs, too.

The following are the most common types of ARBs:

  • Candesartan (Atacand)
  • Eprosartan (Teveten)
  • Irbesartan (Avapro)
  • Iosartan (Cozaar)
  • Olmesartan (Benicar)
  • Telmisartan (Micardis)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)

Hydrochlorothiazide may increase skin cancer risk

Dermatologist examining mole with magnifying glass

Dermatologist examining mole with magnifying glass | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

This medication is a commonly-prescribed diuretic, Medical News Today reports. Some studies even claim hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is “the most commonly prescribed antihypertensive drug worldwide” — so it’s important to know the risks.

A large study examining over 80,000 patients on HCTZ found those who took this medication were up to seven times more likely to develop skin cancer, according to researchers. The drug seemed to raise the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

The following are common brand names of HCTZs:

  • Esidrix
  • Hydrodiuril
  • Microzide

Short-acting calcium channel blockers may increase pancreatic cancer risk

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are commonly given to older patients seeking help with their blood pressure, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network notes. As Doctor Victoria Manax, a medical officer at PanCan, explains, CCBs increase “the blood and oxygen level to the heart while decreasing the heart’s overall workload.” However, in post-menopausal women, research suggests the use of CCBs could contribute to pancreatic cancer risk.

Researchers found that short-acting CCBs promoted inflammation in the body, which can increase all types of cancer — but in this instance, pancreatic cancer was the biggest concern. Manax insists that more testing is needed to confirm these findings, but it’s something to keep in mind if pancreatic cancer runs in your family.

The following are common types of CCBs:

  • Amlodipine (Norvasc)
  • Diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac)
  • Felodipine
  • Isradipine
  • Nicardipine
  • Nifedipine (Adalat CC, Afeditab CR, Procardia)
  • Nisoldipine (Sular)
  • Verapamil (Calan, Verelan)

Long-term use of some meds may be linked to increased risk of lip cancer

WebMD notes certain high blood pressure medications may increase the odds of developing lip cancer, particularly in white people. This is because certain meds make you more sensitive to the sun. Cigarette smoking also boosted the odds of developing lip cancer.

So, how scared should you be of lip cancer? The leader of the study, Dr. Gary D. Friedman, reassures that lip cancer is still quite rare, and taking your blood pressure medications should take precedence. Friedman suggests wearing a wide-brimmed hat if you’re headed outdoors for extended periods, and you should also wear a lip balm containing SPF to protect the skin.

The following are medications researchers linked to a higher risk of lip cancer when used for over five years:

  • Hydrochlorothiazide — over four times the risk
  • Hydrochlorothiazide-triamterene — almost three times the risk
  • Nifedipine — 2.5 times the risk
  • Lisinopril — 1.4 times the risk

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