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June 14, 2010
Angiotensin Receptor Blockers and Cancer: For Real?
Well, this could be nothing, or it could be big trouble: there's a report out that taking the angiotensin antagonists (the various "sartans") might be linked to increase risk of cancer. A meta-analysis of several large trials, reported in Lancet Oncology, patients in the treatment groups showed a 7.2% incidence of new cancer diagnoses, versus 6% for the control groups. These are large sample sizes, so that difference has a p-value of 0.016.
The authors wisely refuse to take the data any further, and call for more investigation, which certainly seems warranted. The whole renin-angiotensin system is certainly involved in angiogenesis, and thus could very plausibly have effects in oncology. But the surprising thing is that there's evidence that blockade of the receptors could actually cut down on tumor formation, too. If you'd taken a survey last week, you'd probably have gotten a lot of people to bet that these drugs would actually have a protective effect.
So what's going on? It's going to be quite a while before we find out. But an awful lot of people take these drugs, and now they're all wondering what to do. . .
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