Study Finds Common Hypertension Drugs Help Lower Colorectal Cancer Risk

Medications commonly prescribed to help people treat high blood pressure have been found with anti-cancer effects. Researchers said that exposure to the drugs could help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

The new study, published in the journal Hypertension, looked into the effects of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE-i) and angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) medications. They are designed to manage conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure and heart disease. 

ACE-i and ARB work by blocking the chemical called angiotensin, which causes arteries to become narrow. Doctors usually provide these medications to help people lower their blood pressure.

Researchers have long been exploring the effects of ACE inhibitors and ARBs on cancer development. However, earlier studies faced challenges such as having a small number of patients, short-term follow-ups and conflicting findings, according to Wai Leung, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Hong Kong. 

The latest study tried to address those issues. It looked into health records of 187,897 adult patients in Hong Kong and extended the analysis from 2005 to 2013.

All patients had a negative baseline colonoscopy for colorectal cancer. The disease ranks as the third most common cancer around the world and is the second leading cause of cancer death.

Researchers found that the patients who took hypertension medications, such as ACE-i and ARBs, had a 22 percent lower risk of having colorectal cancer. Majority of those who experienced anti-cancer effects were aged 55 or older and those with a history of colon polyps.

"Our results provide new insights on a potential role of these medications for colorectal cancer prevention," Leung, one of the study authors, said in a statement. "This is the first study to show the potential beneficial effects of ACE inhibitors and ARBs on colorectal cancer development, based on a large group of patients who were colorectal cancer-free at the beginning of the study."

However, the researchers noted more studies are needed to verify the potential benefits of hypertension medications on colorectal cancer risk. Leung hopes that their findings will soon guide doctors in considering ACE-i and ARBs for patients with high blood pressure, heart failure and kidney diseases. 

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