Calcium Channel Blockers (think “dipine” or “amil” names) are common blood pressure medications. Much like every drug, this class comes with its list of side effects, but I’ll bet you didn’t know this was on the list.
Every drug comes with side effects. That’s the price we pay to mess with physiology the way Mother Nature intended (which is what all drugs do–they mess with the way your body is supposed to be working). The game we play is to make sure the side effects are not as dangerous as the disease state that is being treated. Seems pretty simple, right?
There are hundreds of different types of blood pressure medications and fall into several classes: diuretics, beta blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and angiotensin II receptor blockers. And, as mentioned, they all have side effects. Some of them, like the beta blockers, I can’t even figure out why we’re still using them for blood pressure since they clearly lead to diabetes and stroke. I’ve covered many of the known side effects of all these classes of drugs in a previous blog article that can be read by clicking here.
However, there is a new side effect identified in this particular article that should make every women sit up and take notice.
In a well designed study, researchers looked at the relationship between calcium channel blocker use and breast cancer. This association was first identified in 1996, but lost any momentum within a few years, to be picked up some 17 years later by this group. Here’s the details:
- There were 2763 women in the study, 880 of them with invasive ductal breast cancer, 1027 with invasive lobular breast cancer, and 856 with no cancer for controls.
- Use of calcium-channel blockers for 10 or more years increased risk of ductal breast cancer 240% and lobular breast cancer 260%.
- The risk was the same for all types of calcium-channel blockers used.
While this study does not prove that this blood pressure medication contributed to the breasts cancers, it certainly doesn’t look good. But here’s the kicker–the vast majority of prescriptions written for all blood pressure medications have been shown to be worthless for someone with stage 1 hypertension (systolic below 160 or diastolic below 99), essentially not having any effect on someone’s risk of heart attack, stroke or overall risk of death.
If a drug does nothing for the patient, then ANY side effects of that drug are unacceptable. If that particular side effect is an increased risk of breast cancer from a blood pressure medication you didn’t need in the first place, I’m not sure there’s a word to describe this.