Blood pressure medications not linked to cancer risk, scientists say

SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France — Patients with high blood pressure have plenty to worry about without thinking their medications will make them sick. For decades however, there have been conflicting reports that antihypertensive drugs may increase a person’s risk for cancer. Now, a new study is debunking these claims. British researchers say there is no evidence drugs which lower blood pressure put you at higher risk of developing cancer.

“Our results should reassure the public about the safety of antihypertensive drugs with respect to cancer, which is of paramount importance given their proven benefit for protecting against heart attacks and strokes,” says study author Emma Copland in a media release.

The report by the European Society of Cardiology says this debate has been going on for over 40 years. Despite that, no clear link increasing or decreasing cancer risks have been tied to blood pressure medications.

The new study examines approximately 260,000 patients from 31 medical trials. It is the largest report on cancer diagnoses involving participants in random blood pressure drug trials to date.

Various blood pressure medications show similar results

The report investigates five different types of antihypertensive drugs: angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi), angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs), and diuretics.

Study authors estimate how these medications impact the chances for all types of cancers and the risk of dying from the disease. They also take into account differences in age, gender, body size, smoking habits, and each patient’s antihypertensive prescription history.

During an average trial period of four years, 15,000 new cancer diagnoses were reported. Regardless of age, size, or health history, researchers say none of the five drugs dramatically increase the risks for cancer.

Looking at the “hazard ratio” for developing cancer, the study reveals all of the high blood pressure medications remain within a few points of the average cancer risk. The report also finds no evidence taking blood pressure drugs will lead to breast, colorectal, lung, prostate, or skin cancers.

“Our study has addressed an ongoing controversy about whether antihypertensive medication increases the risk of developing cancer,” the epidemiologist from the University of Oxford adds. “We used the largest individual-level randomized evidence on antihypertensive medication to date and provide evidence for the safety of blood pressure lowering drugs in relation to cancer.”

More good news during the pandemic

The findings are another welcome piece of information for patients living with high blood pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. Another recent study reveals taking two of these drugs may help prevent severe COVID-19 complications.

British researchers say both ACEi and ARBs significantly lower the risk of life-threatening infections and death from the virus. Both reports encourage patients to continue using their blood pressure drugs. Copland’s study adds there is no evidence that long-term use of these medications increases the chances for developing cancer.

The findings are being presented at the ESC Congress 2020 event.

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