A specific class of blood pressure medication is found to increase the pancreatic cancer risk in women, according to the AACR 2018 meeting on Tuesday.

Women who take short-acting calcium channel blocker, which acts as a blood vessel relaxant, are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer later in life compared to those who take a different type of drug.

Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study of 145,551 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 to collect and analyze data based on the medication they took. The participants were enrollees at the Women's Health Initiative between 1993 and 1998, a national health study that is focused on preventing deaths in older women caused by heart diseases, cancer, and osteoporotic injuries.

The study authors analyze four types of blood pressure drugs, namely beta blockers, diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and CCBs. They also noted the product and generic names, duration of use, and dosing.

Women who took short-acting CCBs have increased their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 66 percent compared to other women who took other types of anti-hypertensive drugs.

"Our findings on short-acting CCB use and pancreatic cancer risk are novel and of potential broad medical and public health significance if confirmed. Short-acting CCBs are still prescribed to manage hypertension, which is one of the components of metabolic syndrome, and metabolic syndrome is a possible risk factor for pancreatic cancer," said lead author Dr. Zhensheng Wang, a postdoctoral associate at the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

What's In The Drug?

Anti-hypertensive drugs contain a soluble receptor for advanced glycation end-product or sRAGE that was previously thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. The use of blood pressure medication is shown to increase the concentration of sRAGE levels.

Wang's team hypothesized that as sRAGE levels increase, the risks associated with pancreatic cancer will be reduced. Instead, Wang said their study showed an increase in pancreatic cancer incidence among women who took short-acting CCBs for more than three years.

The authors explained that the results of the study should help future researchers understand the mechanism between short-acting CCBs and sRAGE levels.

"The blockage of the calcium channel caused by [the] use of CCBs may potentially reduce sRAGE release and thus further decrease the levels of anti-inflammatory sRAGE. This is important as chronic inflammation is a well-recognized risk factor for pancreatic as well as many other cancers," the researchers wrote.

Co-author Dr. Li Jiao, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, said the study is limited only to postmenopausal women. Further research is still needed to understand the risks of anti-hypertensive medicines among premenopausal women and men.

Second Cancer Killer

Pancreatic is projected to be the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States around 2020 after lung cancer, according to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said cases of pancreatic cancer have been gradually increasing over the past 15 years due to the prevalence of obesity.

"Many Americans are not aware that the combination of obesity, high-caloric intake and lack of physical activity is the second-leading cause of cancer in the US," Brawley said.

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