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Long-term use of blood pressure medications known as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II antagonists may help some patients reduce their risk of developing cancer, including breast cancer. These findings were recently reported in the journal Cancer.

ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II antagonists are two groups of drugs commonly used for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). Both types of medications lower blood pressure by ultimately reducing the effects of angiotensin II in the body. Angiotensin II is a substance normally produced by the body that affects the cardiovascular system in various ways, including increasing blood pressure by narrowing the blood vessels.

Genetic patterns may influence the action of angiotensin in the body, specifically, genetic alterations referred to as the ACE insertion (I) or deletion (D) gene polymorphisms. Researchers conducted a study aimed to determine if ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II antagonists, and I/D polymorphisms impacted the risk of colorectal, lung, breast, and prostate cancer.

Researchers analyzed data from a previous study including 6,670 patients who had received ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II antagonists for at least six months. Patients were evaluated during an average of 9.6 years.

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  • Patients with a D/D genotype, which indicated a high level of angiotensin activity, had nearly a 50% increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Patients with the D/D genotype, however, experienced a 70% reduced risk of developing breast cancer if they received long-term and high-dose treatment with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II antagonists.
  • Short-term, high-dose therapy with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II antagonists increased the rate of colorectal cancer progression for patients with the genotype referred to as II/ID.

Researchers concluded that ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II antagonists appear to significantly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer among women with the D/D genotype if they are used in high doses or for a long period. These results warrant further evaluation. Ultimately, such findings may provide more evidence in favor of individualized therapy.

Reference: Van Der Knaap, R., Siemes, C., Coebergh, J., et al. Renin-angiotensin system inhibitors, angiotensin I converting enzyme gene insertion/deletion polymorphism, and cancer. Cancer. 2008. 112(4) 758-766.

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