Skin cancer a possible downside of Viagra

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Source: SMH – Amy Corderoy

Men who use impotence drugs such as Viagra could be at risk of developing skin cancer, a US study indicates. The research raises questions about the safety of such medications, particularly among men who are already at risk of melanoma because of fair skin or regular sunburn.

The concern is that they may have the potentially deadly side-effect of increasing melanoma risk because of the way the drugs work, the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, says.

The drugs block an enzyme known as PDE5, helping relax the smooth muscle cells in the penis and causing an erection.

However, this same enzyme has been implicated in the metastasis of melanoma cells and has been found to be a target of melanoma drugs, leading the study’s authors to look for any link between the two in patients.

Their study included nearly 25,850 men, and found that those who had used Viagra had an 84 per cent increased risk of melanoma.

Cancer Council chief executive Ian Olver said the results were intriguing, but men did not need to put away their medication just yet.

”This should trigger further investigation of these drugs,” he said. ”I think it’s fair enough for men to note that there has been this finding, although I don’t think it’s enough yet to change the advice we give them. People at risk of melanoma should be looking at regular sun protection and check-ups.”

The researchers noted that only a small proportion of men (less than 11,000) had used the medication, and of those only 14 developed melanoma, meaning more research was needed before any link could be proven. In addition, Viagra was the only type of PDE5 inhibitor examined, so the implications for similar drugs such as Cialis are unclear…read more

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