Blood Pressure Medications Significantly Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Volume 7    |    Issue 58

If you're a woman with high blood pressure — and have had it for some time — you could be at an increased risk of breast cancer. The high blood pressure itself isn't the cause of breast cancer. But treating your blood pressure could be the cause. Here's why.

Doctors often jump at the chance to treat high blood pressure with drugs. If your blood pressure is over 140/90, a doctor may prescribe a calcium channel blockers (CCBs), such as Cardizem or Procardia. They also may give you this prescription if you have an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). These drugs relax your blood vessels and force them to widen. This, of course, increases blood flow to the heart.

The good news is that taking these drugs for a few months, and even for a few years, seems to be fairly safe. But a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Internal Medicine suggests taking them for 10 years or longer significantly increases your risk of breast cancer.

The researchers in this study found that women taking calcium channel blockers for a decade or more have a greater risk for breast cancer. Here's why this is particularly concerning: When you get a prescription for blood pressure meds, you usually end up taking them for the rest of your life. It's rare that a doctor works to get you off the drugs.

In this study, the researchers questioned 880 women with invasive ductal breast cancer, 1,027 women with invasive lobular breast cancer, and 856 women without cancer (the control group). The researchers found that use of the calcium channel blockers was much greater in both cancer groups, indicating the medications could be a significant contributor to the disease.

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Since breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men often have similar causes, many researchers have wondered if the blood-pressure medications might increase prostate cancer risk as well. So far, the results of studies are mixed. But there is some evidence that the drugs can increase your risk of prostate cancer, particularly if you have a family history of prostate cancer.

In other words, it doesn't matter if you're a man or woman, using calcium channel blockers can increase your risk of cancer.

Researchers aren't sure yet why the drugs are connected with cancer, but many speculate that calcium channels are involved in regulating apoptosis (cell death).

It doesn't really matter why the drugs increase your risk of cancer. The fact that they do should make you wary of taking them. If you have high blood pressure, look at your diet, amount of exercise, and the supplements you're taking (or need to take). A supplement like Circutol can help lower your blood pressure and help you avoid the drugs altogether.

Your insider for better health,


JAMA Internal Medicine, August 2013.

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