Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark found that one of the most popular medicines used worldwide in the treatment of hypertension, hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), raises the risk of skin cancer by up to seven times. HCTZ is a popular diuretic used to treat water retention and high blood pressure.
The current study offers fresh evidence of the risks tied to blood pressure medicine and skin cancer—both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Using national databases, the researchers found that on average those who took HCTZ daily for at least six years were 29% more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma and almost four times more likely to get squamous cell carcinoma than individuals who didn’t take this medication.
HCTZ has long been linked to an increased risk of sunburns, as one of the side effects of hydrochlorothiazide is photosensitivity or an increase in sensitivity to the sun’s radiation. This may account for the increased risk associated with blood pressure medicine and skin cancer.
“[The side effects associated with HCTZ] might lead to tenderness after sun exposure or actual sunburns,” says researcher and author of this study, Anton Pottegård, Ph.D. “Such skin damage is one of the main pathways leading to skin cancer, in particular [to] squamous cell carcinoma.”
While news that blood pressure medicine may increase your risk of developing skin cancer is concerning, it is important to note that more research is needed before experts can draw any firm prescribing changes for HCTZ based on these findings. Senior study author, Anton Pottegård, even cautions that patients taking hydrochlorothiazide should not stop without first seeing a doctor.
To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, patients are urged to follow proven strategies, such as:
- Protecting your skin from the sun
- Avoiding the use of tanning beds or sun lamps
- Examining your skin for signs of skin cancer
For those with hypertension that are concerned about the risks associated with blood pressure medicine and skin cancer, understand that controlling your blood pressure with medications can help to prevent stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. By teaming up with your physician and dermatologist, you can manage both your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
For more information on all things skin cancer, visit Sensus Healthcare.