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Can Blood Pressure Pills Cut Risk of Colon Cancer?

In Hong Kong, people taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs seem to have a lower risk of colon cancer. Are the drugs responsible?
Can Blood Pressure Pills Cut Risk of Colon Cancer?
Doctor gastroenterologist with probe to perform gastroscopy and colonoscopy

Millions of people take blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors such as lisinopril. Many others use ARBs such as losartan or valsartan. Some previous studies hint that ACE inhibitors might increase your chance of lung cancer slightly. On the other hand, a new study suggests these pills could reduce your risk of colon cancer (Hypertension, July 6, 2020).

What Did the Researchers Find?

The research was conducted throughout the territory of Hong Kong and included people at least 40 years old. All of them had had a colonoscopy between 2005 and 2013. Importantly, none of them had colorectal cancer discovered during the colonoscopy.

The investigators used medical records to determine if any of the volunteers developed colorectal cancer. They followed up on 187,897 individuals after their colonoscopies. More than 30,000 of them, around 16 percent, were taking an ACE inhibitor or an ARB. In the subsequent six months to three years, 854 developed colorectal cancer. That was a smaller proportion than among people not using these blood pressure pills. The longer people had been taking their medicine, the lower their risk of colon cancer.

Do ACE Inhibitors and ARBs Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer?

This is an observational study, so it can’t establish a cause and effect relationship. However, it suggests that these drugs may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, especially among people with a history of colon polyps. Previous research found that people taking lisinopril were less likely to develop dangerous colon polyps (Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Feb. 2011). This could help explain why ACE inhibitors are linked to a lower chance of of developing colorectal cancer.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Cheung KS et al, "ACE (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) inhibitors/angiotensin receptor blockers are associated with lower colorectal cancer risk: A territory-wide study with propensity score analysis." Hypertension, July 6, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.15317
  • Kedika R et al, "Long-term use of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme inhibitors is associated with decreased incidence of advanced adenomatous colon polyps." Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Feb. 2011. DOI: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e3181ea1044
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