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Blood Pressure Drugs Counter Cancer?

Fewer Colon, Pancreatic, and Esophageal Cancers Seen in People Taking ACE Inhibitors
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 23, 2006 -- Certain cancers may be less common among people taking a type of blood pressure drug called ACE inhibitors, new studies show.

"ACE" stands for angiotensin converting enzyme. ACE inhibitors widen or dilate the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow. The drugs are prescribed for high blood pressurehigh blood pressure, heart failureheart failure, heart attackheart attack, diabetesdiabetes, and heart diseaseheart disease prevention in high-risk individuals.

The new studies -- presented in Los Angeles, at Digestive Disease Week 2006 -- showed fewer cancers of the colon, pancreas, and esophagus in people taking ACE inhibitors.

However, researcher Vikas Khurana, MD, stresses that it's too early to start using ACE inhibitors to ward off those cancers, or even to favor ACE inhibitors in picking a high blood pressure drug.

Khurana works at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, La. Advances Against Colon CancerAdvances Against Colon Cancer

Researcher's Comments

"Although our studies are very interesting they are still case-controlled studies and should not be used for clinical decisions at this time," Khurana told reporters, in a teleconference.

He notes that the data doesn't show the dose, duration, or specific drugs that were used and doesn't make any recommendations for people who need drugs to treat high blood pressure.

Treating high blood pressure is "a very specialized field," Khurana says, adding that drug decisions "need to be made based on individual patients and their cardiologist or general internist."

"What we're studying is whether we have additional benefits out of these agents, and I think still we need more time and more research on this to change any clinical decisions at this time," Khurana says.

Tracking Cancer, ACE Inhibitors.

Data covered 483,733 veterans cared for from October 1998 to June 2004 in the South Central VA Health Care Network, which covers eight states in the south-central U.S. More than 184,700 of those veterans were taking ACE inhibitors.

A total of 6,697 veterans had colon and rectal cancer, 475 had pancreatic cancer, and 659 had esophageal cancer.

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