A commonly prescribed class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure may slightly increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
The class, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, includes drugs such as Altace (ramipril), Lotensin (benazepril) and Prinivil (lisinopril).
In a new study, researchers looked at nearly one million people that were prescribed blood pressure-lowering drugs in the United Kingdom. Once prescribed, they were followed for an average of 6.4 years. Some people received an ACE inhibitor, some received another class of drugs, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), and others received both groups of drugs.
Common ARBs include Benicar (olmesartan), Cozaar (losartan) and Diovan (valsartan). The patients that took an ACE inhibitor had a 14% increased risk of lung cancer compared to those on an ARB, the researchers reported in the BMJ.
The risk also increased the longer a patient was on an ACE inhibitor. After 10 years, the increased risk rose to 31% compared to ARBs.
The researchers surmise that the increased lung cancer risk may be the result of ACE inhibitors promoting the production of protein-like chemicals known as bradykinin and substance P, which can stimulate lung cancer growth.
An editorial accompanying the study said that the long-term risk of lung cancer associated with ACE inhibitors should be “balanced against gains in life expectancy associated with use.”