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Blood Pressure Drug Linked to Increased Breast Cancer Risk

Published on | Kylie Chin

Women taking calcium channel blockers, a common drug to control hypertension, may more than double their risk for breast cancer if the medication is administered for more than a decade. This alarming finding was released this past Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, located in Seattle, Washington. While this is first time drugs like verapamil, gallopamil, and fendiline (among others) have been linked to breast cancer, please take note that the researchers emphasized that these findings are not yet concrete and need to be verified by other studies before action is taken to avoid these drugs.

Epidemiologist and the study’s co-author Kathleen E. Malone released this statement:

“We would not recommend changes in adherence to medication based on this report. We need replication from studies using larger populations and then it may be worth discussing.”

Researchers around the country agree. Research profession of epidemiology at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center had this to say.

 “The finding raises a hypothesis that should be further studied, but we’re not at the level that people should be panicking if they’re taking calcium channel blockers and getting effective management of hypertension from them.”

The study was conducted in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. Researchers interviewed 2,763, two-thirds of whom had breast cancer, about the drugs they took for high blood pressure, or hypertension. Surprisingly, only calcium-channel blockers were found to be associated with breast cancer and the proportion of women who got breast cancer was double in the group that had been taking those drugs for 10 or more years.

Calcium-channel blockers are the fourth most commonly prescribed class of hypertension drugs due to their supposed mild side effects. Approximately 98 million prescriptions for calcium-channel blockers were filled in 2010.

All this should be taken with a grain of salt, researchers say. Dr. Christopher Li, the lead researcher on this study says:

 “Because hypertension is a chronic condition, most people with high blood pressure use antihypertensive drugs chronically and will often stay on the same regimen for long periods of time. Characterizing their potential associations with the most common cancer in women is an important clinical and public health issue, particularly with the increasing availability of alternative options to manage hypertension.”

If you have questions or concerns please contact your physician.

 


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