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Viagra could increase men's risk of skin cancer

Kimberly Gillan
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
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Men who take Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction could have an increased risk of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, according to US researchers.

The researchers from various institutions, including Harvard and Brown universities, analysed data from a study of 26,000 men to see how skin cancer rates compared between those who took Viagra and those who didn't.

All up, six percent of the men had taken sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra. If they had taken it in the past, the data suggested they had double the risk of developing melanoma than the men who hadn't taken it. If they were currently taking it, the risk increased by 84 percent.

Professor Robert McLachlan, director of Andrology Australia, told ninemsn this is the first he has heard of the link, but that the study had limitations.

"This is an observational population study – it's an association not a demonstration," he said.

Professor McLachlan said the authors provided an interesting possible mechanism.

"The drug may also tickle up those early melanoma cancer cells to go feral," he said.

"But there are many imperfections in the study design so you can't over-read it."

Professor McLachlan said that if further research established a definite link, men would have to weigh up their skin cancer risk against their desire to deal with their erectile dysfunction.

"The message is that we know a lot about melanoma and how not to get them and it all boils down to lifestyle from an early age and onwards," he said.

"Whilst this is an interesting observation, the real issue is that it's a disease that starts way back in childhood. Sunsmart approaches are the most important thing to consider."

Professor Ian Olver, CEO of the Cancer Council, told ninemsn that past studies have found Viagra to decrease the tumour inflammatory response, so the jury still out on the link.

"In population terms, the incidence of melanoma has been going down when Viagra was introduced. You would almost suggest it had no impact," he said.

"We couldn't make a clinical recommendation on the basis of a retrospective study, particularly as there are other studies that suggest the opposite."

Professor Olver said that sun damage remains the key factor we know contributes to skin cancer.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: Huffington Post Author: Kimberly Gillan, Approving editor: Rory Kinsella

Do you have a story for us? Email us at healthwellbeing@ninemsn.com.au

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