Potential link between blood pressure drug and lung cancer, study suggests

25 October 2018        

Category: BHF Comment

A drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure could be linked to an increased risk of lung cancer, according to a new BMJ study.

blood pressure cuff reading

Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are a family of drugs commonly prescribed to help lower blood pressure. Another group of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) can also be used to treat high blood pressure.

Researchers at McGill University in Canada analysed the primary care records of nearly one million patients in the UK, who started taking blood pressure lowering drugs between 1995 and 2015.

Patients were 18 years old or above, had no history of cancer and were followed-up for an average of 6.4 years. This kind of study, where scientists monitor what happens over a period of time, is called an observational study.

The results

During the study, 7,952 people were diagnosed with lung cancer. However a number of factors could have played a part in this such as age, weight, smoking status or alcohol related disorders. After taking these factors into account, use of ACE inhibitors were found to be associated with a 14% increased risk of lung cancer, compared to ARBs.

Responding to the study, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at British Heart Foundation said:

“ACE inhibitors have been prescribed for many years to treat heart failure and high blood pressure, and are undeniably life-saving. The suggested link to lung cancer is a surprise, and based on an observational study.

While the authors have tried to look for other reasons for the link, they accept there’s always the possibility it’s down to factors they didn’t measure.”

Find out more about ACE inhibitors