Blood Pressure Medication Ups Risk of Lip Cancers

If you’re one of the more than 60 percent of US adults who take medication for high blood pressure (hypertension), be aware that some of these drugs could increase your chances of lip cancer. A new study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that Caucasian patients who regularly use certain commonly prescribed antihypertensives may be more than four times likelier to develop lip cancer than people not taking these medications. Most lip cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, common skin cancers that affect an estimated 700,000 people in the US annually and kill 2,500.

Researchers examined more than 700 lip cancers among almost 24,000 subjects taking antihypertensives, including hydrochlorothiazide and triamterene, both diuretics, and nifedipine, which relaxes heart muscles and blood vessels. These drugs also cause photosensitivity, making users’ skin more vulnerable to the cancercausing effects of ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by the sun and tanning machines. Investigators found that among subjects who had used antihypertensive drugs for five or more years, hydrochlorothiazide users had more than 4 times the risk of developing lip cancers as nonusers; those taking hydrochlorothiazide and triamterene combined were almost 3 times as likely, and subjects taking nifedipine were 2.5 times as likely. It is especially important for all these patients to practice sun protection scrupulously.

Blood Pressure Drugs to Watch Out For

Antihypertensive drugs are sold under various generic and brand names. Some (though not all) photosensitivity-causing antihypertensives are listed below.

  • Hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL®, Microzide®)
  • Nifedipine (Adalat®, Adalat® CC, Afeditab® CR, Nifedical XL®,Nifeditab® CR, Procardia®, and Procardia® XL)
  • Hydrochlorothiazide-Triamterene (Dyazide®, Maxzide®)

If you are taking any blood pressure medication, speak to your doctor about sun safety, and look over The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Prevention Guidelines.