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Did you know your “water tablet” for hypertension could be the culprit for your skin cancer?

By , On , In Skin Cancer

Perhaps the most important thing we can do for our overall health is careful, objective monitoring of the entire package. This is not to suggest neurotically scouring websites that will provide the worst-case scenario for every ache and ailment, but healthy observations of our overall conditions is a common, proper practice.

And so as if the health of our skin wasn’t enough to keep paying attention to, those of us with hypertension (or high blood pressure) have one more concern to bring up with our doctors: The medication prescribed to us. Gosh, can we just go back in time to when managing hypertension was easy and didn’t come with all the fuss?

Hydrochlorothiazide, and water-based diuretic commonly used to treat high blood pressure (ex. Microzide), has shown some evidence in elevating the risk of Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), which is the second-most common form of skin cancer. According to a recent report by the British Columbia College of Family Physicians, observation data suggest an association between the drug and the disease. While this doesn’t denote causation — that is, the drug doesn’t necessary cause SCC — there seems to be evidence of a link.

Hypertension is common. In fact, 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from hypertension (many of whom are unaware), a higher percentage of which are men. Likewise, SCC is also a common skin cancer. It presents itself on the areas most affected by the UV rays of sunlight or tanning beds: places like head, neck, chest, upper back, and arms. Both are preventable, but now both are reasonable linked to one another.

On the surface, this is just more bad news, but don’t consider it that way. Fortunately, both illnesses are treatable, manageable, and relatively benign with responsible monitoring.

From exercise to eating to mindful meditation, there are many things a person can do to reduce their blood pressure. However, hitting the trails on your bike (covered up from the sun, of course) while avoiding coffee and salt only can only control so much, so appropriate medical options are also part of the equation. Be mindful, though, that the BCCFP does see a correlation between the length of time using Hydrochlorothiazide and its’ risk of SCC (in a way that other diuretics did not). For example, five years of Hydrochlorothiazide increased risk 3-4 times.

Should you wish to investigate, we’ll be there to help you decide how to weigh the increased risk of SCC versus the risk of switching medication. You shouldn’t have to maintain one part of your health while sacrificing another.