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ACE inhibitors—drugs commonly used to control high blood pressure and heart failure in women—may increase the risk of cancer recurrence among breast cancer survivors. In contrast, beta blockers—drugs used to control high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias—may reduce risk. These results were published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Early diagnosis and improved treatment have resulted in many long-term breast cancer survivors. Ways to improve the health and well-being of breast cancer survivors is an active area of research.

In addition to cancer, many women must contend with other common chronic health problems such as high blood pressure. These conditions or the drugs used to manage them could affect breast cancer outcomes.

To explore the relationship between breast cancer recurrence and two types of drugs commonly used to manage high blood pressure and other problems, researchers evaluated information from the LACE (Life After Cancer Epidemiology) study. The study included more than 1,700 women who had been diagnosed with early breast cancer.

Twenty-three percent of the women used an ACE inhibitor and/or a beta blocker.

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  • Risk of cancer recurrence was increased among women who used an ACE inhibitor, decreased among women who used a beta blocker, and intermediate in women who used both an ACE inhibitor and a beta blocker.

According to the lead author of the study, “The ACE inhibitor findings were not expected. These observations need to be confirmed and suggest that greater attention should be focused on the potential effect of these commonly used medications on recurrence and breast cancer survival.”

In other words, it’s too early to draw firm conclusions about the effects of these drugs on breast cancer outcomes. Women should not make changes to the medications they take without talking with their healthcare provider.

Reference: Ganz PA, Habel LA, Weltzien EK, Caan BJ, Cole SW. Examining the influence of beta blockers and ACE inhibitors on the risk for breast cancer recurrence: results from the LACE cohort. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Early online publication April 11, 2011.

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