HCTZ and Risk of Skin Cancer

News & Media | bcdiabetes, Drugs, living with diabetes

Yesterday Health Canada issued a warning around HCTZ (hydrochlorothiazide), a commonly used diuretic blood pressure lowering medication:

The warning was issued because of new evidence suggesting a 4-fold increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer in individuals who have taken HCTZ for 3+ years.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is made up of  basal-cell skin cancer (BCC) & squamous-cell skin cancer (SCC): it is caused by sun (UVB) exposure – it is always curable if caught early (any roughening of the skin, or non-healing sore in sun-exposed areas); it is much more common in individuals with pale skin, especially those of Celtic (Scottish, Welsh & Irish) ancestry.

Prior to this warning HCTZ has been considered the single best blood-pressure-lowering agent on the world-wide market.  It is a very effective blood pressure-lowerer, inexpensive at 5 cents per pill and has only rare side-effects (lowering of potassium & sodium levels, skin rash).

The question for every person currently taking HCTZ, and for their loved ones, is “should I stop this medication”.  For BCDiabetes patients prescribed HCTZ, my advice is stay on it unless you have already had skin cancer. And remember, if you have a suspicious area of skin be sure to consult your family physician.

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