Could a Common Blood Pressure Medication Pose Higher Cancer Risk?

Researchers in the UK and Canada have teamed up to find more evidence that links common prescription blood pressure medication with elevated lung cancer risk.

According to the researchers, millions of people take angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (also known as ACEIs) around the world to treat myriad vascular conditions. This includes things like high blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure, chronic kidney disease, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.

ACEI medications have a tendency towards high efficacy with remarkably low risk for side effects.  As such, these drugs have become a life-saving strategy for many, at a time when heart disease and diabetes continue to reign as major mortality threats.

The new data is only the latest of many recent studies to confirm that short-term ACEI regimens are safe but long-term use could have a more dire impact.  While the exact parameters of this impact (from long-term use) remain unclear, the researchers are most certain that higher-than-normal rates of ACEI use have been linked to various types of cancer.

The team describes, “In this large, population-based study, the use of ACEIs was associated with an elevated risk of lung cancer overall, along with evidence of a duration-response relation. Although the magnitudes of the observed associations are modest, ACEIs are one of the most widely prescribed drug classes: in the UK, 70.1 million antihypertensives are dispensed each year, of which approximately 32 percent are ACEIs.”

Of course, the study is not quite yet sound.  There are several weaknesses that researchers have found which suggests that the association (between ACEIs and increased cancer risk) is not a causal relationship.  Because the data is inconsistent, they argue, the analysis is not very strong.

“Thus,” they go onto say, “small relative effects could translate into large absolute numbers of patients at risk for lung cancer. Given the potential impact of our findings, they need to be replicated in other settings, particularly among patients exposed for longer durations.”

As such, they now hope to continue this research in order to more accurately and consistently express their inherent concern over the potential cancer risk when taking blood pressure medication like ACEIs.

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