Common High Blood Pressure Medication Could Increase Risk of Skin Cancer

Older people in Australia taking a common high blood pressure drug are at a higher risk of ending up with skin cancer. Skin Cancer which is already affecting many Australians who seek treatment at an Australian skin clinic in Tweed is usually associated with exposure to the sun.

Research carried out on a common high blood pressure medication Hydrochlorothiazide indicates that older people who take this medication may have a higher chance of developing melanomas as well as lip cancer.

common high blood pressure medication

The number of older people (+65yrs) with hypertension who might seek skin cancer treatment from an Australian skin clinic in Tweed is notably higher for those using Hydrochlorothiazide.

Read: Treating High Blood Pressure With Ayurvedic Medicine

The findings were published in the journal Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology and are consistent with earlier research carried out in Europe and the USA. According to Dr. Benjamin Daniels who is the lead author of the study, they discovered an increased risk of developing squamous cell cancer associated with lip cancer and melanomas.

The UNSW research was based on data collected from different hospitals visited by DVA cardholders with skin cancer. The researchers say their findings correspond to 20 risk set sampling controls that they carried out concurrently.

Hydrochlorothiazide is often prescribed for people with hypertension, a chronic disease that affects over a third of Australia’s population above 18. Without treatment, hypertension can develop into critical health complications like heart disease and stroke. Doctors usually prescribe medication and lifestyle adjustments to manage the condition.

Because of the seriousness of high blood pressure, the researchers warn patients against drastically stopping treatment with hydrochlorothiazide. The research points out that this is information mainly for the doctors to consider so that they can recommend tests on their patients as well as advise people taking this medication to exercise sun smart measures to avoid extensive exposure to harmful radiation from the sun especially during peak UV hours of the day.

The relevance of the Study

The research was particularly relevant to Australia because of the already high risk of developing skin cancer in the country. The Australia Cancer Council, notes that Australia has the highest skin cancer rates with 2 in 3 Australians likely to be diagnosed with the disease by the time they are 70.

There is however need for this research to be extended to younger Australians. The researchers point out that this research was based on data collected from older people, but research in UK, Denmark, and the USA suggests that there could be similar results from data collected for younger people using Hydrochlorothiazide.

Skin Checks

Despite the research findings, doctors are not about to stop patients who are already on this medication. The benefits it provides to people with hypertension cannot be ignored. More research may have to be carried out to see if it should be stopped and something else prescribed.

In the meantime, regular skin checks are important. Every adult in Australia is encouraged to carry out self-skin examination as well as refer suspicious blemishes on the skin to a doctor. It is more important for elderly people on this medication to carry out skin checks so that any cancer may be identified in its early stages.

Everyone is at risk of skin cancer even though some may be more prone than others. For this reason, every adult should familiarize themselves with information about the disease and know key symptoms as well as how to identify cancerous growth on their skin. Where visits to a doctor may not be possible, telemedicine could be an option.

About Hydrochlorothiazide

Hydrochlorothiazide is a diuretic drug. It is used to induce the production of urine in the body. Diuretics help the body get rid of excess water and salt. It is also used to deal with edema, a condition where the body has excess fluid. People with kidney and heart problems may have edema as a symptom and it can cause swelling of the legs especially the ankles.

It is taken orally according to the prescription of the doctor and usually, the prescription is to take it once a day. Known side effects include headache and an upset stomach as the body gets used to the medication, some people may also feel dizzy. Since it induces the loss of water, some patients may experience symptoms of dehydration.


The main risk of skin cancer is exposure to UV rays from the sun. There may be a need to investigate how this drug affects the skin. No patient on the drug however should stop taking it without the doctor’s recommendation. Patients should instead be more vigilant about taking action to reduce exposure to the sun by wearing approved sunscreen as well as staying away from direct exposure to the sun. You should also keep your appointment with a skin doctor to have your skin checked for signs of skin cancer.

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Article Author Details

Courtney Dawson