BP pills may cause skin cancers in elderly

Common medications used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) may adversely raise the risk of skin cancers in people aged 66 and above, claims a new study.

Long-term intake of antihypertensive medications called thiazide diuretics, including hydrochlorothiazide, are linked with higher rates of non-melanoma and melanoma — the two major types of skin cancers, globalnews.ca reported.

The findings have been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

However, other common blood pressure drugs such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers, did not raise this risk, the study showed.

Hydrochlorothiazide is known to make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation and sunlight, meaning patients can get sunburned more easily, according to Health Canada.

“The theory is that by making our skin cells more sensitive to the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or a tanning bed, that medication might increase skin cancer risk,” Aaron Drucker, study co-author and dermatologist at the Women’s College Hospital, in Canada was quoted as saying to globalnews.ca.

The study included 3,02,634 patients in Ontario who were prescribed an antihypertensive medication between 1998 and 2017.

Patients with higher risk of skin cancer must consider other treatment alternatives, the researchers suggested, adding patients taking thiazide diuretics must periodically monitor for skin cancer.

While most skin cancers do not lead to death and can be treated with a simple surgery, an advanced squamous cell skin cancer or melanoma may put a patient’s life at risk, Drucker said.