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Common blood pressure drugs may reduce colorectal cancer risk

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Some of the most frequently prescribed drugs for treating high blood pressure may have a completely unrelated, but positive side effect: They may reduce adults’ risk of getting colorectal cancer, new research has found.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are commonly used for conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure. These medications work by inhibiting or blocking angiotensin, a chemical that causes arteries to narrow. These medications help blood vessels to relax and open, lowering blood pressure.

A large retrospective study conducted in Hong Kong, based on a group of nearly 200,000 adults, found that those who took either medication type had a 22% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer over a three-year period. All had undergone colonoscopies and screened negative for colon cancer at its start. These benefits were also seen in people over age 55, as well as those with a history of colon polyps.

“Our results provide new insights on a potential role of these medications for colorectal cancer prevention,” said study author Wai K Leung, M.D. “While ACE (inhibitors) and ARBs are taken by patients with high blood pressure, heart failure and kidney diseases, the reduction in colorectal cancer risk may be an additional factor for physicians to consider when choosing anti-hypertensive medications.”

Colorectal cancer is now the third most common cancer – and the second leading cause of cancer deaths – around the world. The study was published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.

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