A common hypertension medicine dramatically increases your risk of getting skin cancer, a new study finds.1
Danish researchers looked at 80,000 cases of skin cancer. Then they analyzed medications the patients were taking. They found that one drug made people seven times more likely to get skin cancer.
It was the blood pressure medication hydrochlorothiazide (HCT).
HCT is a diuretic. It reduces fluid in the body, which causes blood pressure to drop. It is one of America’s most popular drugs. More than 50 million prescriptions are written for it in the U.S. every year.2
Dr. Anton Pottegård is associate professor at the University of South Denmark. He is one of the study authors. “We knew that hydrochlorothiazide made the skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun’s UV rays,” he said. “But what is new and also surprising is that long-term use of this blood pressure medicine leads to such a significant increase in the risk of skin cancer.”3
Other blood pressure medications had no effect on cancer risk, researchers found.
HCT triggers a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. It’s the second most common skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma.4
Unlike basal cell carcinoma, it can metastasize and spread to other areas of the body if not treated. There are about a million cases of it a year in the U.S. About 9,000 of them are fatal. (Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It kills about 10,000 Americans a year.)5 6
Middle-aged and elderly people, especially those with fair complexions and frequent sun exposure, are most likely to develop squamous cell cancer. This is the very same age group most likely to take blood pressure pills like HCT.7
Dr. Armand Cognetta Jr. is Chief of the Division of Dermatology at Florida State University College of Medicine. The Danish researchers partnered with Dr. Cognetta for the study.
“We have seen and followed many patients with different skin cancers where the only risk factor apart from exposure to sunlight seems to be hydrochlorothiazide,” he said.8
“The combination of living and residing in sunny Florida while taking hydrochlorothiazide seems to be very serious and even life-threatening for some patients.”
The research was recently published in the Journal of the American Association of Dermatology.
Check Your BP Medication Label Now
Common brand names for hydrochlorothiazide include HydroDIURIL, Microzide, Dyazide, and Maxzide. It is often part of a combination pill in which it is added to other blood pressure drugs. In these cases, it is labeled as HCTZ or HCT.9
If you are prone to skin cancer or live in a sunny climate, ask your doctor to switch you to another medication. There are dozens of other blood pressure drugs on the market. It is likely that another one will work just as well for you as HCT…but without giving you skin cancer.10
Better yet, take steps to lower your blood pressure naturally. That way you’ll completely avoid drug side effects.
Just about everybody who takes hypertension meds reports at least one side effect. Common ones include constipation, headaches, erectile dysfunction, and drowsiness. Some studies have linked them to dementia and cancer.11
4 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally
Here are four non-drug methods proven to reduce high blood pressure:
- Eat foods rich in potassium. Multiple studies show that foods high in potassium lower blood pressure. The mineral allows your body to excrete sodium, which causes your blood pressure to drop. It is similar to putting yourself on a low-sodium diet.12
Potassium-rich foods include avocados, wild-caught salmon, spinach, sweet potato, and coconut water. All of these have more potassium than bananas, which people often eat to get the nutrient.
- Take grape seed extract. An Italian study found taking grape seed extract can decrease your systolic (upper number) blood pressure by 21 to 28 points in just one month. After four months of being on grape seed extract, 93% of study subjects no longer had high blood pressure.
Grape seed extract is available at health food stores and online.
- Keep the weight off. A University of Alabama study looked at five lifestyle factors associated with high blood pressure: smoking, diet, exercise, drinking, and body weight. They found that body weight was by far the most important.
People who keep a healthy body weight are 41% less likely to have high blood pressure. The other lifestyle factors combined lessened the chance by only 27%.
- Take saunas. A Finnish study found that regular sauna users had almost a 50% lower chance of high blood pressure.13
Saunas reduce stress and raise your body temperature. This causes your blood vessels to open, which reduces blood pressure.
Editor’s Note: Something strange was happening to pilots training to fly F-16 fighter jets. The ones who went into the program with elevated blood pressure were coming out a few weeks later with normal, healthy readings.
They hadn’t taken any medications… Their diets hadn’t changed… And they hadn’t made any changes to their exercise regimens.