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Men's Health

Viagra Doesn’t Cause Melanoma

A rigorous analysis of more than 20,000 medical records concludes that erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra are not a cause of melanoma, an often deadly form of skin cancer, despite the higher risk for the disease among users of these drugs. A detailed report on the research findings was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association online June 23rd 2015.

The analysis, led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, of medical records for some 20,235 mostly white men suggests instead that the likely source of the observed uptick in malignant melanoma risk among users of erectile dysfunction drugs is socioeconomic and lifestyle based.

A release from NYU quotes lead study investigator and NYU Langone urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc., as saying, “What our study results show is that groups of men who are more likely to get malignant melanoma include those with higher disposable incomes and education — men who likely can also afford more vacations in the sun — and who also have the means to buy erectile dysfunction medications, which are very expensive. “While medications for erectile dysfunction come with serious risk of a drop in blood pressure if taken together with other medicines called nitrates, overall they are safe medications, and our results suggest that physicians should not be concerned that the drugs cause melanoma,” says Loeb, an assistant professor at NYU Langone and member of its Perlmutter Cancer Center.”

“Physicians should still screen men for melanoma risk, but they do not need to add use of erectile dysfunction drugs to their list of screening criteria,” says Loeb, whose latest study was prompted by a highly cited 2014 analysis in 14 men who had taken Viagra and were later diagnosed with melanoma.

Among the more than 20,000 men whose records were studied, 4,065 were found to have malignant melanoma between 2006 and 2012. Among these men were 2,148 who had used any of the three main drugs for erectile dysfunction — Viagra (also known as sildenafil), Levitra (vardenafil), and Cialis (tadalafil) — and among them, some 435 had the skin cancer.

Researchers who led the analysis say that while there was a greater statistical risk of developing malignant melanoma among erectile dysfunction drug users (an overall increased risk of 21 percent for having filled a single prescription), a closer look at the numbers revealed no increased risk among those men with the most prescriptions. Researchers say that a “dose relationship” — i.e., the more drugs taken the higher the risk — would usually be expected if the drugs were a direct cause of the cancer.

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