High blood pressure warning: Common medication linked to increased risk of CANCER

High blood pressure is a growing problem in the UK, and as well as lifestyle changes it is commonly treated with medication.

Types often prescribed include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers, diuretics and beta-blockers, according to the NHS.

However, new research has linked one of the most commonly prescribed blood pressure medications to an increased risk of cancer.

A study by the University of Southern Denmark and the Danish Cancer Society has revealed those taking an antihypertensive medicine containing hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic, are more likely to developing skin cancer.

Skin cancer is diagnosed in 100,000 people each year and well known risk factors include unprotected sun exposure.

The new findings about the hypertension medication - one of the most commonly used drugs worldwide - build on previous research which found it increased risk of lip cancer.

Other commonly used blood pressure medications, however, were not found to increase skin cancer risk.

“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, associate professor from the University of South Denmark.

Researchers looked at 80,000 cases of skin cancer in Denmark and discovered that the risk of developing skin cancer was seven times greater in those who took the specific medicine.

They estimated that 10 per cent of all Danish cases of squamous cell carcinoma - the type of skin cancer in question - could be triggered by hydrochlorothiazide.

Squamous cell carcinoma, which affects around 10,000 people a year in England and Wales, can fortunately now be easily treated. 

"However, both lip and skin cancer are typically treated with an operation that is associated with a certain risk of impairment as well as a small, but real, risk that skin cancer of the squamous cell type spreads," said Pottegård.

"You should not interrupt your treatment without first consulting your doctor.

“However, if you use hydrochlorothiazide at present, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor to see if it is possible to choose a different medicine.”

He added that the risk of skin cancer must be weighed against the positive effects of hydrochlorothiazide for many people.

The NHS recommends cutting salt intake, being active and losing weight as other ways to reduce blood pressure.



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