Erectile dysfunction medicines do not cause melanoma, analysis of large studies finds

May 19, 2017, New York University School of Medicine
Melanoma in skin biopsy with H&E stain — this case may represent superficial spreading melanoma. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Use of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra does not cause the development of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

This is the main finding of new research led by investigators at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Perlmutter Cancer Center and published online May 19 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

While the researchers found an overall 11 percent increase in the risk of developing melanoma among erection medication users, they found no evidence that medicines cause melanoma. Instead, the study authors attribute the risk to "detection bias," where the group of patients likely to take erection medicines also happens to be more health conscious, more likely to see a doctor, and so more likely to get diagnosed with melanoma than other men of similar age.

"Physicians should still screen for melanoma risk, but they do not need to add the use of Viagra and similar drugs to the list of screening criteria specifically," says urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, an assistant professor at NYU Langone. "In general, men should continue to be careful about the risk of any kind of skin cancer from excessive sun exposure and use sun protection."

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs collectively known as phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors on its watch list of medications with possible safety issues. The FDA action followed a 2014 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that linked an increased risk of melanoma with Viagra use. Loeb's team, in 2015, published a detailed analysis in JAMA of the medical records of 20,000 men in Sweden that found no evidence that Viagra or similar medicines cause melanoma.

In response to the FDA's action, Loeb and her colleagues analyzed data from five large-scale studies of erectile users and melanoma published between 2014 and 2016, which included a total of 866,049 men, of whom 41,874 were diagnosed with melanoma.

The researchers found an overall increase in melanoma risk among men who used PDE5 inhibitors, but they hypothesized that if a cause and effect exists, higher use of erection medications would be associated with higher risk of developing the disease. Loeb and her colleagues found the opposite: there was an increase in risk among men who had a small amount of exposure to these medications, and men who took larger amounts of erectile dysfunction medications had no significant increase in melanoma risk.

The researchers also reasoned that if erectile dysfunction medications cause melanoma, they would expect to find more aggressive disease among people who take the medications, but that was not the case. They did find an increased risk of early stage melanoma among erection medicine users, but those who took such medications were at a lower risk for than non-users.

"Overall, Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors are safe medications as long as men are not taking nitrates, which carry a risk of reducing blood pressure," Loeb said. "Physicians and patients should not be concerned about taking these medications on account of worry about ."

Explore further: Viagra does something very important—but it is unlikely to cause melanoma, researchers conclude

Related Stories

Viagra does something very important—but it is unlikely to cause melanoma, researchers conclude

June 23, 2015
A rigorous analysis of more than 20,000 medical records concludes that erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra, are not a cause of melanoma, an often deadly form of skin cancer, despite the higher risk for the disease ...

Taking PDE5 inhibitors for erectile dysfunction unlikely to increase risk of skin cancer

June 14, 2016
Three drugs widely prescribed for erectile dysfunction are unlikely to increase risk of malignant melanoma, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Study examines melanoma incidence, death

December 21, 2016
A new research letter published online by JAMA Dermatology updates information on trends in melanoma incidence and death in the United States since 2009.

Pregnancy does not increase expectant mothers' melanoma risk

April 27, 2017
Expectant mothers need not be concerned that they are more prone to develop melanoma, or will have a worse prognosis if they do get this serious skin cancer, than women who are not pregnant, according to study results published ...

Psoriasis may up risk of melanoma, hematologic cancer

March 28, 2017
(HealthDay)—Patients with psoriasis may have a higher risk of melanoma and hematologic cancers than the general population, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Erectile dysfunction drugs are safe, possibly beneficial after heart attack

March 9, 2017
Men who filled prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs in the years following a heart attack had a substantially lower risk of dying or being hospitalized for heart failure than men who did not use these drugs, according ...

Recommended for you

Single-cell study in a childhood brain tumor affirms the importance of context

April 20, 2018
In defining the cellular context of diffuse midline gliomas, researchers find the cells fueling their growth and suggest a potential approach to treating them: forcing their cells to be more mature.

Aggressive breast cancer already has resistant tumour cells prior to chemotherapy

April 20, 2018
Difficult to treat and aggressive "triple-negative" breast cancer is chemoresistant even before chemotherapy begins, a new study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center ...

Mechanism that drives development of liver cancer brought on by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease discovered

April 19, 2018
A team of researchers from several institutions in China has found a mechanism that appears to drive the development of a type of liver cancer not caused by alcohol consumption. In their paper published in the journal Science ...

Discovery adds to evidence that some children are predisposed to develop leukemia

April 19, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital researchers have made a discovery that expands the list of genes to include when screening individuals for possible increased susceptibility to childhood leukemia. The finding is reported ...

Chip-based blood test for multiple myeloma could make bone biopsies a relic of the past

April 19, 2018
The diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting plasma cells, traditionally forces patients to suffer through a painful bone biopsy. During that procedure, doctors insert a bone-biopsy needle through an ...

Scientists identify 170 potential lung cancer drug targets using unique cellular library

April 19, 2018
After testing more than 200,000 chemical compounds, UT Southwestern's Simmons Cancer Center researchers have identified 170 chemicals that are potential candidates for development into drug therapies for lung cancer.

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.