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A world leading study involving over 260,000 participants has sought to resolve the long debated issue about whether using antihypertensive medication heightens the chance of developing cancer.

A world leading study involving over 260,000 participants led by Prof Kazem Rahimi, has sought to resolve the long debated issue about whether using antihypertensive medication heightens the chance of developing cancer.
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A world leading study involving over 260,000 participants has sought to resolve the long debated issue about whether using antihypertensive medication heightens the chance of developing cancer.

The largest of such an investigation to date, this study was funded by The British Heart Foundation, National Institute for Health Research, Oxford Martin School and was led by Prof Kazem Rahimi at the University of Oxford. It collected the largest individual-level randomised evidence on antihypertensive medication to date and scrutinised the cancer outcomes of 260,000 people in 33 trials. It found no link between using blood pressure lowering drugs and the propensity for cancer to strike.

The trials involved comparing one blood pressure lowering drug class with a placebo, inactive control, or other blood pressure lowering drug. Five antihypertensive drug classes were investigated separately: angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs), and diuretics.

The investigators estimated the effect of each drug class on the risk of developing any type of cancer, of dying from cancer, and of developing breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and skin cancers. They also examined whether there were any differences according to age, sex, body size, smoking status and previous antihypertensive medication use before taking part in the trial.

During an average of four years, around 15,000 individuals were diagnosed with cancer. The researchers found no evidence that the use of any antihypertensive drug class increased the risk of cancer. This finding was consistent regardless of age, gender, body size, smoking status and previous antihypertensive medication use. However, the effects of CCBs require further investigation.

Ms. Emma Copland, study lead and epidemiologist at the University of Oxford commented: “Our results should reassure the public about the safety of antihypertensive drugs with respect to cancer, which is of paramount importance given their proven benefit for protecting against heart attacks and strokes.”

The findings are published in a new paper titled: “Antihypertensive treatment and risk of cancer: an individual participant data meta-analysis.” in The Lancet Oncology. Download it here

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