Blood Pressure Medications and Cancer Risk

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Concerns raised about ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) have folks worried. Patients have come to our offices asking if they should switch their blood pressure medication. Let’s shed some light on the issue as there is reason for calm. Well known ARBs include losartan (Cozaar), candesartan (Atacand), irbesartan (Avapro), Benicar (olmesartan), Diovan (valsartan) and Micardis (telmisartan). They work well to lower blood pressure and the kidneys of diabetics love them.

ARBs have been plagued with cancer fears since 2010 when the FDA reported that a review showed an increase in risk of cancer in patients taking an ARB compared to those not taking an ARB. Then in June 2011, the FDA released a statement concluding the evidence did not demonstrate that ARBs increase a patient’s risk of developing cancer. Yep there was reason to wonder what was going on.

After the older studies raised the possibility that ARBs might raise cancer risk, several other studies were done, and those were reassuring.

Two huge meta-analyses showed no increased risk of new cancer occurrence or cancer-related death with the use of ARBs in patients with hypertension, or heart failure. Take home message is this: overall, the bulk of evidence today indicates that ARBs are not associated with increased cancer risk.

Dr O.

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