Blood pressure drugs associated with reduced risk of esophageal, pancreatic and colon cancers

LOS ANGELES – Thousands of individuals currently taking angiotension converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, a type of medication commonly used to lower blood pressure, may be doing more than treating their hypertension. According to research presented today at Digestive Disease Week® 2006 (DDW), ACE inhibitors not only effectively lower blood pressure, but they are also associated with a significant decrease in risk of developing three types of cancers: esophageal, pancreatic and colon. DDW is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

Using a study population of nearly 500,000 U.S. veterans, researchers from the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, LA, completed three case-controlled studies examining the correlation between ACE inhibitor use and esophageal, pancreatic and colon cancer incidence. The team analyzed statistics from the Veterans' Integrated Service Network (VISN 16) database, a resource tool containing information about every veteran that has received care from the South Central VA Health Care Network from October 1998 to June 2004. Among the 483,733 patients in the study, 659 had esophageal cancer, 475 had pancreatic cancer, and 6,697 had colon and rectal cancer; approximately 38 percent were taking ACE inhibitors.

While ACE inhibitors were associated with a reduction in risk for all three cancer types, it was most effective in lowering the risk of developing esophageal cancer, with a 55 percent risk reduction as compared to the controls. Results from the second study showed that ACE inhibitor use offered a 48 percent reduced risk of pancreatic cancer. And in the third study, investigators found that ACE inhibitor use was associated with a 47 percent reduced risk of colon cancer.

The studies were controlled for age, race, gender, body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, reflux, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) use, diabetes and statin use. However, dosage, duration and type of ACE inhibitor used were not factored into the analyses.

"Our results call for further studies to investigate the promising benefits of ACE Inhibitors in cancer prevention," said Vikas Khurana, M.D., lead study author from the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, LA. "Through confirmatory research we hope to shed light on the valuable role ACE inhibitors may play in advancing current treatment options for multiple cancers." Researchers believe the potential benefit of ACE Inhibitors against cancer may be due to the suppression of tumor angiogenesis by blocking a growth protein called VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor), which is believed to play a significant role in the growth and reproduction of tumors.

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Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. Jointly sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract (SSAT), DDW takes place May 20-25, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The meeting showcases more than 5,000 abstracts and hundreds of lectures on the latest advances in GI research, medicine and technology.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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