Common Hypertension Medications May Also Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer

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Medications commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, according to new research published by Cheung et al in the journal Hypertension.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) are often prescribed for conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure, or heart disease. These medications inhibit or block angiotensin, a chemical that can cause vasoconstriction and blood pressure increases. Based on the findings of this large study, taking these medications may also reduce colorectal cancer risk.

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“The roles of ACE inhibitors and ARBs on cancer development are controversial and, in some cases, study findings are conflicting. Results of previous studies have been limited by several factors, including a small number of patients and data only on short-term follow-ups. Our results provide new insights on a potential role of these medications for colorectal cancer prevention,” said study author Wai K. Leung, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, in a statement. “This is the first study to show the potential beneficial effects of ACE inhibitors and ARBs on colorectal cancer development, based on a large group of patients who were colorectal cancer–free at the beginning of the study.”

Study Details and Findings

Researchers reviewed health records of 187,897 adult patients in Hong Kong from 2005 to 2013 with a negative baseline colonoscopy for colorectal cancer.

The analysis found that:

  • Patients who took hypertension medications such as ACE inhibitors or ARBs had a 22% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer in the subsequent 3 years
  • The benefits of ACE inhibitors and ARBs were seen in patients 55 or older and those with a history of colon polyps
  • The benefit associated with the medications was limited to the first 3 years after the negative baseline colonoscopy.

“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 antihypertensive medications,” added Dr. Leung.

This is a retrospective study, and the researchers noted that the results should be verified with a prospective randomized controlled study, which would actively follow patients to determine the potential benefits of these medications on colorectal cancer risk.

The study authors concluded, “ACE inhibitors/angiotensin receptor blocker[s] were associated with a lower colorectal cancer risk in a duration-response manner.”

Disclosure: The study was funded by the Health and Medical Research Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.