Common blood pressure medication linked to greater lung cancer risk, study says

While hypertension medication can help lower blood pressure levels, it might also increase your risk of lung cancer, according to a new report.

Researchers from McGill University in Canada recently conducted a study, published in The British Medical Journal, to determine the link between lung cancer and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), two types of pharmaceutical drugs used to treat hypertension.

While both types of drugs lower blood pressure, they target different proteins and can have different side effects. Common ACEIs include lisinopril, benazepril and enalapril, and common ARBs include azilsartan, candesartan and eprosartan mesylate.

For the study, the authors examined the health records of 992,000 adults in the United Kingdom who were prescribed blood pressure drugs from 1995 to 2015. They were followed for more than six years, and the analysts considered their age, sex, weight, smoking status and other factors that could influence the findings.


After analyzing the results, they found that those who used ACEIs had a 14 percent increased risk of lung cancer compared to those on ARBs. They noticed the association after five years of use and said the risk increased the longer the patients were on the medication. In fact, those who took it for 10 years had a 31 percent increased chance of a diagnosis.

“In this large, population based study, the use of ACEIs was associated with an elevated risk of lung cancer overall, along with evidence of a duration-response relation,” the team wrote. “Although the magnitudes of the observed estimates are modest, these small relative effects could translate into large absolute numbers of patients at risk for lung cancer, so these findings need to be replicated in other settings.”

The scientists noted ACEIs do not cause lung cancer, and they do not yet understand the relationship between the illness and the pills. However, they hypothesize that socioeconomic differences, diet and family history of lung cancer may have affected their findings. They also acknowledged previous research that suggested ACEIs may cause the accumulation of chemicals that have been discovered in lung cancer tissue.

They now hope to continue their investigations and advise people to express their concerns about potential blood pressure medication risks with their physicians.

“Additional studies,” they concluded, “with long term follow-up, are needed to investigate the effects of these drugs on incidence of lung cancer.”

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