Many medications can be extremely helpful, whether easing discomfort or saving lives. But shortages and recalls can cause concern, leading people to look for alternatives to swap with their prescribed drugs. At the same time, a huge segment of the population uses prescription drugs – approximately 66% of adults in the United States. Talking to your doctor about the risks of certain medications and weighing them against the benefits can help you make informed decisions.
Another type of important data to collect relates to healthy habits versus those that may increase your risk of cancer. Do you use sunscreen and eat healthy? Did you know that drinking coffee can help prevent a certain type of disease? These are some of the factors to consider when thinking about your overall well-being. Making sure your medications are right for you and as safe as possible is another important part of cancer prevention. Read on to learn about four drugs that may increase your risk of cancer.
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Blood pressure medications can be very effective in controlling high blood pressure. “The benefits of blood pressure medication are clear: blood pressure medication can help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels and therefore significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. “, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “In general, the risks of taking blood pressure medications are low.”
However, Sony Sherpa, MD, warns that angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) used to treat hypertension “have been shown to contain intolerable levels of NDMA, which is a potential carcinogen.” And blood pressure medications containing hydrochlorothiazide have been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer, reports the Mayo Clinic. “Researchers speculate this happens because hydrochlorothiazide makes the skin more sensitive to the sun,” the site says, adding that more research into possible dangers is needed.
Different heartburn medications may have different potential risks. “Zantac is the go-to drug for many [people] to treat heartburn,” says Sherpa. “Besides the main components of the drug, Zantac also contains impurities, such as NDMA [a potentially carcinogenic, nitrosamine impurity] that increase your risk of developing cancer.”
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are available by prescription and over-the-counter (OTC). According to MedlinePlus, they are used to treat various gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux or stomach ulcers; some commonly known PPIs include Prevacid and Prilosec. “Because PPIs such as omeprazole are powerful stomach acid suppressants [they] may increase the risk of gastric cancer by causing atrophy (thinning) of the stomach lining, increased levels of a hormone called gastrin, and an overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach,” according to Drugs.com.
“Several studies have shown an association between PPI use and gastric cancer,” Mark H. EbellMD, MS wrote in an article published by American family physician. Ebell recommended that “physicians initiating antacid therapy should start with a histamine H2 receptor antagonist and, if prescribing a PPI, should use the lowest possible dose and duration.”
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In August 2022, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement regarding another nitrosamine impurity, Nitroso-STG-19 (known as NTTP) that had been found in some samples of sitagliptin (a medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus). “NTTP belongs to the class of nitrosamines, some of which are classified as probable or possible human carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer), based on laboratory testing,” the FDA said. However, “to prevent a shortage and help ensure that patients have access to an adequate supply of the drug, the FDA will not object to the temporary distribution of sitagliptin containing NTTP above the acceptable intake limit. “
“It could be dangerous for patients with this disease to stop taking their sitagliptin without first talking to their healthcare professional,” warned the FDA, which recommended that “prescribers continue to use sitagliptin when clinically appropriate to avoid a gap in the treatment of patients”.
The hormone estrogen can be used to help treat symptoms of menopause, which include hot flashes and vaginal dryness, explains the Cleveland Clinic. “But taking estrogen alone increases the risk of uterine cancer,” warns the site. “Experts know that several different factors play a role in turning healthy cells into cancers. When these factors are present, estrogen can act as a spark [and] the hormone causes cancer cells to multiply and spread.”
The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that combination hormone therapy, in which progesterone is used in addition to estrogen, may help reduce the risk of uterine cancer. This therapy is known as estrogen-progestogen therapy (EPT). Estrogen therapy, or ET, “is only safe for women who do not have a uterus (such as those who have had a hysterectomy),” the ACS notes.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research and health agencies, but our content is not intended to replace professional advice. Regarding any medications you are taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your health care provider directly.