Long-term use of blood pressure meds promoting sun sensitivity may raise lip cancer risk

August 6, 2012

Long-term use of commonly used blood pressure medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight is associated with an increased risk of lip cancer in non-Hispanic whites, according to a Kaiser Permanente study that appears in the current online issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Funded by the , the study found that photosensitizing such as nifedipine and hydrochlorothiazide were associated with cancer of the known as —which are the main part of the outermost layer of the lips and skin.

Researchers compared 712 patients in Northern California with lip cancer to 22,904 people in a control group and found that the risk of squamous cell lip cancer was higher for those with long-term use of photosensitizing blood pressure medications.

"Lip cancer remains rare and an of developing it is generally outweighed by the benefits of these drugs and other photosensitizing medications," said Gary Friedman, MD, an emeritus researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and lead author of the study. "Physicians prescribing photosensitizing drugs should ascertain whether patients are at high risk of lip cancer by virtue of fair skin and long-term sun exposure and discuss lip protection with them. Although not yet confirmed by clinical trials, likely preventive measures are simple: a hat with sufficiently wide brim to shade the lips and lip sunscreens."

The risk of lip cancer appeared to increase with increasing duration of use of these drugs and was not explained by a history of cigarette smoking, also a known risk factor for lip cancer, according to investigators.

Photosensitizing drugs are believed to absorb energy from ultraviolet and/or visible light, causing the release of electrons. This leads to generation of reactive oxygen intermediates and free radicals which damage DNA and other components of skin and lip cells and produce an inflammatory response, Friedman said.

Researchers ascertained prescriptions dispensed and cancer occurrence from August 1994 to February 2008. They identified 712 patients with lip cancer and 22,904 controls in the susceptible group of non-Hispanic whites. Researchers determined their use at least two years before diagnosis or control index date of the commonly prescribed diuretics, HCTZ and HCTZ combined with triamterene (HCTZ/TR), the angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor lisinopril, the calcium channel blocker nifedipine, and the beta adrenergic blocker atenolol, the only non-photosensitizer studied. Non- photosensitizing atenolol, when used alone, was not associated with increased risk. Findings for lisinopril were not as clear-cut as those for HCTZ, HCTZ/TR and nifedipine.

Researchers analyzed use of each drug both exclusively and regardless of use of others and focused on duration of use. The analysis controlled for smoking.

Researchers were not able to include basal cell and squamous cell cancers of the skin in this study because these diagnoses have not been recorded in their cancer registry. Also, researchers were not able to adjust for sun exposure, the most important lip cancer risk factor, along with relative lack of pigmentation of the lips. Risk of developing melanoma was not associated with these drugs. This form of skin cancer has been more strongly associated with intermittent sun exposures, especially those producing sunburn, than with chronic , so timing of use of photosensitizing drugs could be an important consideration, explain the researchers.

Explore further: Commonly used painkillers may protect against skin cancer

Related Stories

Commonly used painkillers may protect against skin cancer

May 29, 2012
A new study suggests that aspirin and other similar painkillers may help protect against skin cancer. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings indicate that skin ...

Blood pressure drugs don't protect against colorectal cancer

May 14, 2012
A new study has found that, contrary to current thinking, taking beta blockers that treat high blood pressure does not decrease a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed ...

New drug targets for squamous cell carcinoma

May 19, 2011
Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have discovered a new drug target for squamous cell carcinoma – the second most common form of skin cancer. Scientists in the laboratory of Valeri Vasioukhin, Ph.D., ...

Biological agents for rheumatoid arthritis associated with increased skin cancer risk

September 8, 2011
Biological agents used to treat rheumatoid arthritis seem to be associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, indicates a systematic review of published research in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

People with darker skin still at risk for melanoma

July 26, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Skin cancer is more common among white people, but people with darker skin are also at risk, a dermatology expert cautions.

Recommended for you

Alternative splicing, an important mechanism for cancer

September 22, 2017
Cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, arises from the disruption of essential mechanisms of the normal cell life cycle, such as replication control, DNA repair and cell death. Thanks to the advances ...

'Labyrinth' chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells

September 21, 2017
Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. ...

Drug combination may improve impact of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer

September 21, 2017
Checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapy has been shown to be very effective in recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer but only in a minority of patients. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers ...

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

New kinase detection method helps identify targets for developing cancer drugs

September 21, 2017
Purdue University researchers have developed a high-throughput method for matching kinases to the proteins they phosphorylate, speeding the ability to identify multiple potential cancer drug targets.

Poliovirus therapy induces immune responses against cancer

September 20, 2017
An investigational therapy using modified poliovirus to attack cancer tumors appears to unleash the body's own capacity to fight malignancies by activating an inflammation process that counter's the ability of cancer cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.