A recent Danish study, in collaboration with Florida State University, found that one of the most popular drugs used worldwide to treat high blood pressure raises your risk of skin cancer seven times. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Association of Dermatology4 by researchers who had previously found a link between the drug hydrochlorothiazide and lip cancer.

In this study, they demonstrated an association between the medication and squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, forms of less invasive skin cancer.

The researchers have also looked at other antihypertensive medications but have not found an association between those and skin cancer. Anton Pottegard, Ph.D., associate professor from the University of Southern Denmark, initiated the study. He commented on what prompted the analysis of the potential link between hydrochlorothiazide and skin cancer, saying:

“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.”

The study was based on data from national databases that followed 80,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and compared it to 1.5 million healthy control subjects. Past research demonstrated the medication increased the vulnerability of the skin to the sun, but the researchers stated they were surprised this vulnerability led to such an increased risk of cancer.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Armand B. Cognetta Jr., from Florida State University, has found similar results in patients he treats in Florida, where “the only risk factor, apart from exposure to the sunlight, seems to be hydrochlorothiazide.” Squamous cell carcinoma has a low mortality rate, but the treatments carry a risk of impairment and the potential the cancer will spread. The researchers are continuing to work on additional studies that may shed more light on these risks, which Pottengard acknowledges.

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