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Viagra Lifestyle May Up Skin Cancer Risk

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Last year, researchers associated the use of Viagra and other drugs for treating erectile dysfunction with increased risks for malignant melanoma, with results interpreted as if the drugs stimulated the growth of skin cancer cells. Latest study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association disproves this relation, saying instead that it's the "Viagra lifestyle" to blame for higher incidences of melanoma in those using drugs for erectile dysfunction.

Researchers from the New York University, the Regional Cancer Center in Uppsala, the Karolinska Institutet, Umea University, King's College London and the Lund University Hospital teamed up to rigorously analyzed over 20,000 medical records. According to their findings, those who take erectile dysfunction drugs do show an increased risk for skin cancer but it has nothing to do with a biological connection to the drugs they are taking.

For starters, the researchers did not see a "dose relationship," which means that as more drugs are taken, the higher the risks would be. This is usually what is expected to establish that a certain drug directly causes cancer.

"Data rather suggest that men using Viagra, Cialis and Levitra tend to sunbathe more, are more health-conscious and more often seek medical care for skin moles," said Pär Stattin, lead investigator for the current study.

Specifically, researchers recorded risk at its highest for early, superficial melanoma in those taking erectile dysfunction drugs.

The current study is 30 times larger compared to the 2014 study and was carried out using information from the Swedish Melanoma Register, the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register and other demographic databases and health care registers in Sweden.

The researchers acknowledge that having just one prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug is linked to a statistical increase in melanoma risk but pointed out other factors have more influence in skin cancer risk level than simply taking the drug.

For example, those who usually take erectile dysfunction drugs enjoy higher incomes, meaning they are likelier to afford vacations that increase their exposure to the sun, which remains to be the leading risk factor for developing skin cancer.

The study received funding support from the Swedish Research Council, the Vasterbotten County Council, the Lion's Cancer Research Foundation, the Swedish Cancer Foundation, the Louis Feil Charitable Lead Trust and the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Aside from Stattin, Stacy Loeb, Christian Ingvar, Yasin Folkvaljon, Hans Garmo, David Robinson and Mats Lambe also contributed to the study.

Photo: See-ming Lee | Flickr

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