Attention women: Your choice of blood pressure medicine may affect your risk of pancreatic cancer

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Attention women: Your choice of blood pressure medicine may affect your risk of pancreatic cancer

Certain hypertension medications could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

In findings with potentially broad implications for the public’s health, new research has found that some women who treat their high blood pressure with a class of drugs that relaxes the blood vessels were more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who use other hypertension medications.

In a large and intensively-studied group of middle-aged and older women, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was more than twice as high for those who took a short-acting calcium channel blocker for more than three years.

Examples of short-acting calcium channel blockers (and the commercial names by which they’re marketed) include nifedipine (Adalat and Procardia), nicardipine (Cardene), isradipine (DynaCirc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia and Dilacor) and verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin and Verelan).

The women in the study who had ever used a short-acting version of these drugs had a 66% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with women who took a beta blocker, diuretic or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor to reduce their blood pressure.

Study participants who took extended release formulations of a calcium channel blocker also saw a modest 12% increase in their pancreatic cancer risk relative to those who took a beta blocker, diuretic or ACE inhibitor.

The findings emerge from the Women’s Health Initiative, a nationwide study of 161,808 women ages 50 to 79 from which researchers have gleaned important insights into disease prevention. The new results were presented Tuesday at the annual conference of theAmerican Assn. of Cancer Research in Chicago.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, and is most often diagnosed once it has reached advanced stages. While immunotherapy and other advances in cancer care promise new treatments for this malignancy, survival rates have scarcely budged since 1975. It is expected to kill 44,330 Americans in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society.

In this study, 145,551 postmenopausal women were followed for close to 14 years, on average. In this group, 841 women were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. But those diagnoses were far from evenly distributed.

Among the 4,338 women who had taken a short-acting calcium channel blocker for high blood pressure, 45 (or about 1%) were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In the group of 36,594 women who took a beta blocker, diuretic or angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, 212 (or 0.57%) were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Read on: Attention women: Your choice of blood pressure medicine may affect your risk of pancreatic cancer 

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