Taking blood pressure medications might do more than just lower your blood pressure — at least in some cases, they also seem to lower the risk of getting skin cancer.
Lowering your blood pressure is very important to your overall health. Blood pressure medications when taken regularly to keep your pressure down can decrease your risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney damage. Now a study done at Brown University found that some blood pressure medications might also help protect against skin cancer.
The study examined over 1,000 medical records from veterans who received care at the local Veterans’ Administration (VA) hospital. The subjects were mostly older white men who took blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors or ARBs. ACE inhibitors and ARBs are special blood pressure medications that help keep arteries around the kidneys dilated, leading to lower blood pressure. Previous studies have suggested that this type of medication might also have protective activity against cancers. This was the first study to examine this protection with skin cancers.
In the study, 532 veterans used ACE inhibitors or ARBs while 519 did not. Researchers examined their medical records for an average of 3.4 years. They found 472 cases of basal cell carcinoma and 309 cases of squamous cell carcinoma; these are two common types of skin cancer caused by excess sun exposure. Patients who were taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs had a nearly 40% reduction in risk of developing basal cell carcinoma and a 33% reduction in developing squamous cell carcinoma.
The types of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers were similar and the depth of the skin cancers and risk of death was the same among the groups. This would suggest that the blood pressure medications did not stop or slow the growth of skin cancers, but seemed to help prevent them from developing in the first place.
Because this study was a review of medical records instead of a clinical trial, it cannot be concluded that blood pressure meds prevent skin cancer. Additional studies must be done where patients are examined before starting ACE inhibitors or ARBs and are followed over time to see if the medications are truly the reason for the reduced risk of skin cancer.
Other studies have shown that anti-inflammatories called NSAIDs (which include aspirin, motrin, alleve, naprosen, and others) can also protect against skin cancer. These meds, at least at higher doses, seem to suggest that chronic inflammation has a role in developing cancer and that minimizing inflammation might be a good long term strategy to minimizing the risks of developing many types of cancer.