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Seattle Study Finds Blood Pressure Meds May Increase Cancer Risk

Millions of Americans take medications to control their blood pressure, and there are many kinds that will do the job. But one kind is found to increase the likelihood of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that women who’ve been taking calcium-channel blockers for more than a decade have an increased risk for breast cancer.“This is an intriguing finding,” said Dr. Christopher Li, who led the study. “It was a little bit of a surprise for us to see this relationship be so strong for this long-term use.”

Li says previous studies have found links between blood pressure medication and cancer, so they looked deeper. The study was based on interviews with 3,000 women in the Puget Sound region. Two thousand of them were recently diagnosed with breast cancer. All were asked extensive questions about their medical history, and risk factors like family history, obesity and smoking.

The women were also asked about their medications, including those for high blood pressure. Because the interviews were conducted in person, the women were also asked to show the interviewer the actual prescription bottles. 

Li says the team’s findings don't mean women should stop taking their blood pressure meds, however. “This is really because this is the first study to look at this relationship, and we really need to find confirmation of this result in other studies before we would make any sorts of conclusions like that,” he said. 

Li’s findings appeared Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association.

Year started with KUOW: 1994