Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women. The chance that you might develop cancer depends on both genetic and non-genetic factors. The latter may include diet, exercise, or exposure to other substances, including medications.
Hypertension is a chronic condition that is often treated with medications known as antihypertensive agents.
Several different types of antihypertensive agents include angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, diuretics and calcium-channel blockers.
Calcium channel blockers reduce blood pressure by limiting calcium entry into the muscle cells in the artery wall, thereby limiting muscle contraction.
Channel blockers include amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem LA, Tiazac), isradipine (DynaCirc CR), nicardipine (Cardene SR), nifedipine (Procardia, Procardia XL, Adalat CC), nisoldipine (Sular), and verapamil (Calan, Verelan, Covera-PM).
Can blood pressure medications linked to breast cancer?
Long-time users of calcium channel blockers have more than double the risk for getting breast cancer compared to women not using the blood pressure medications.
According to new research, postmenopausal women who use this type of antihypertensive medications for more than 10 years may have a risk of developing breast cancer. Although these blood pressure medications are widely prescribed, data regarding their long-term impact is sparse.
Overall, the use of antihypertensive agents was not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer—regardless of whether the use was classified as current, former or short-term.
However, the results from the research shows that, based on the type and duration of antihypertensive therapy, calcium-channel blockers had been seen to have a significant association with breast cancer risk.
In fact, menopausal women currently taking calcium-channel blockers for 10 or more years had two and a half times the risk of developing invasive ductal and invasive lobular cancers compared to women who never used such calcium-channel blockers and compared to users of other forms of antihypertensive agents.
There has been some evidence suggesting that some of these blood pressure medications may be related to breast cancer risk. The study of nearly 3,000 women found that among high blood pressure drugs, only calcium channel blockers carry the heightened breast cancer risk.
The results also indicated that other types of antihypertensive agents, such as beta blockers, diuretics and ARBs, were not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer — even when used long term.
However, several previous studies had investigated the relationship between blood pressure medications and breast cancer, and findings were varied.
Though at least three previous studies have hinted at associations between calcium channel blockers and cancer, there are a few studies that did not find a link.
Because calcium has so many vital functions in the human body, the fact that a drug affecting calcium dynamics could pose serious risk of developing cancer is not a surprise.
The changes in intracellular calcium concentration are also believed to regulate apoptosis as apoptosis — the programmed death of a damaged cell — is one of the body’s natural defences against cancer.
One hypothesis is that calcium channel blockers could prevent apoptosis in cancerous cells, however data on the subject is mixed and more research is needed.
The researchers concluded that long-term use of calcium-channel blockers might be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. More research is needed to confirm this hypothesis and to evaluate the underlying mechanisms.
Despite the potential for concern raised by this study, the findings don’t warrant any modifications of clinical practice. This was a good study, but it doesn’t mean doctors should stop prescribing calcium channel blockers because it is an observational study.
Always consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about breast cancer risk and blood pressure medications.
Watch this Video – Breast cancer risk tied to popular blood pressure medication: Norvasc
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