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Is Your Hypertension Medication Carcinogenic?

By , On , In Skin Cancer Prevention

Those of us with hypertension (or high blood pressure) have one more concern to bring up with our doctors: The medication prescribed to us.

The risks associated with hypertension medication

Female Doctor using a blood pressure cuff, or sphygmomanometer, to measure a man's blood pressure.
Many individuals are not aware that they have hypertension.

Hydrochlorothiazide, and water-based diuretic commonly used to treat high blood pressure (ex. Microzide), has shown evidence in elevating the risk of Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), 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 just seems to be evidence of a link.

Hypertension is common. In fact, 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from hypertension (many of whom are unaware). That percentage is even higher for 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 your head, neck, chest, upper back, and arms. Both are diseases are preventable, but now, both are reasonably linked to one another.

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

What can you do?

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, 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 comes with an increased risk of 3-4 times more.

Should you wish to investigate, we are 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.