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It appears that angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), a widely used class of blood pressure drugs, may slightly increase the risk of cancer. These findings were published in the Lancet Oncology.

Angiotensin-receptor blockers work by blocking angiotensin II, a hormone that increases blood pressure. In addition to high blood pressure, ARBs are approved for the treatment of heart failure and diabetic nephropathy and to reduce cardiovascular risk. Examples of ARBs included Micardis® (telmisartan) and Avapro® (irbesartan).

To evaluate whether the use of ARBs could increase cancer risk, researchers analyzed data from five trials, which included patients randomly assigned to receive ARBs. They collected data on a total of 61,590 patients.

Patients who received ARBs had an overall modestly increased risk of a new cancer diagnosis compared with patients who did not receive ARBs. During an average of four years of follow-up, cancer was diagnosed in 7.2% of patients treated with an ARB and 6.0% of patients not treated with an ARB.  When researchers looked at specific cancer types, lung cancer was most common.

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The researchers concluded that these data raise concerns about the safety of ARBs in regards to cancer risk and that further investigation is warranted.

Reference: Sipahi I, Debanne SM, Rowland DY, et al. Angiotensin-receptor blockade and risk of cancer: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Lancet Oncology [early online publication]. June 11, 2010.

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