The Links Between ACE Inhibitors and Lung Cancer

If you suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure, there is a good chance that your physician has recommended putting you on an ACE inhibitor such as Lisinopril, Benazepril or Captopril. These medications are sometimes also sold under the brand names of Lotensin, Prinivil, Altace, Vasotec or Aceon.

ACE inhibitors can be and are very effective medications for controlling high blood pressure and the risks that the condition carries, including heart problems and congestive heart failure. There are, however, side effects and additional risks associated with ACE inhibitors. One of the things you may have heard of is a link between ACE inhibitors and lung cancer.

Before you begin taking an ACE inhibitor, it’s best to be fully informed about any possible links between ACE inhibitors and lung cancer, so you can discuss your concerns with your doctor and so that you can determine the best course of treatment together. 

A 2018 Study 

In October 2018, the British Medical Journal, widely known as “The BMJ” one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals, published a study that found an increased risk of lung cancer in patients who took ACE inhibitors over the course of five years.

The study, conducted by lead researcher Dr. Laurent Azoulay of McGill University in Canada,  collected data on almost one million patients whose records were in a British medical database. The records were able to tell the researchers which patients had taken the ACE inhibitors, how long they had taken the medicine, and whether or not they developed lung cancer.

The patients were all at least 18 years old, had no history of cancer and were followed for a period of six years between 1995 to 2015. During that time, almost 8,000 of the patients developed lung cancer.

Taking that raw data, the team then adjusted for factors that might influence the findings (such as patients who smoked – and thus would be at a higher risk for lung cancer). Taking that information into account, the researchers concluded that the numbers meant that the study found that the increased risk of lung cancer could be as high as fourteen percent.

For those patients who were followed for an entire ten-year span, the researchers found an increased risk of thirty-one percent. These numbers have understandably caused quite a stir in both the populations of physicians prescribing the medications and the patients who take ACE inhibitors. 

What Does This Mean for Doctors and Patients?

Each physician and patient, will, of course, need to make their own decisions about the risk and reward associated with the continued use of ACE inhibitors. Dr. Azoulay, the lead researcher noted that “the silver lining of our findings is that while we found an association, the risk at the individual patient level is likely low, even after 10 years of use.”

Azoulay also cautioned that since the study was observational, it could not definitively prove that it is the ACE inhibitors that are causing lung cancer. Observational studies do their best to try and account for all variables, but observational studies cannot provide evidence of cause and effect, they can only provide evidence of a relationship between one phenomenon and another. 

Whether or not individual patients find a 31% chance of developing lung cancer to be “low,” remains to be seen. The other argument will, of course, involve the possibly greater risks involved with not treating hypertension, a condition which can lead, in many cases, to fatal heart attacks and debilitating strokes. 

Each patient will need to weigh the benefits of continuing to take, or beginning to take, an ACE inhibitor against the possible risks and make their own decision. If you’ve decided that an ACE inhibitor like Lisinopril is right for you, click here to learn more about medication discounts.  

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