Myth or reality: can Viagra cause cancer… or even cure it?

For a few years now, information has been circulating on the Internet that erectile dysfunction drugs may cause cancer. We keep receiving questions from concerned clients and requests to clarify the situation. According to Canadian Pharmacy, do Viagra and Cialis indeed dramatically increase the risk of developing melanoma, as a recent study (widely quoted online) seems to suggest? Here is what expert from Smart Canadian Pharmacy have to say on the matter.

melanoma

Let us first get the facts straight. For over 25 years, the Harvard University has been running a project called the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study. Its aim is to study the links between nutrition and lifestyle choices and the development of serious diseases among men. Every two years, the participants fill in a detailed questionnaire.

Questions about the use of erectile dysfunction drugs first appeared on the questionnaire in 2000 (at that time, Viagra was still the only approved ED drug available), and 1618 participants wrote that they were using it. In the following ten years, 14 developed skin cancer, which makes 8.6 per one thousand. Meanwhile, among those roughly 30 000 men who wrote they had never used ED drugs, 128 were diagnosed with skin cancer, which makes 4.3 per thousand men. That means that among Viagra users, the occurrence of melanoma was 84% higher! The result was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine and set off a wave of panic online (you can read the abstract of the original study  here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24710960).

Viagra and melanoma: what the numbers mean

Three years later, many users are still concerned. Here is a question we have received from our client Benjamin M. from Ottawa: “84 per cent seems like a huge additional risk, and I know that melanoma is the deadliest form of cancer. Should I stop using Viagra right now?”

This is how Canadian Pharmacy expert Piter N. Emmerson explains the meaning behind the scary numbers:

While the 84% difference  seems huge, it actually represents just a 0.43% increase in risk per a thousand men. That is a very small difference. Besides, what the numbers show is not a cause and effect relationship – they show a correlation. Two circumstances can occur at the same time without one causing the other. The 2014 study showed that those who used Viagra were diagnosed with skin cancer more often. It did not show that Viagra caused cancer.

If you’re looking for information about Viagra, luckily for you Canadian Health Mall Company has recently prepared a detailed guide on how to use the medication. To find the guide, follow this article https://www.canadianhealthmall.com/viagra-generic

Recent studies question earlier results

Naturally, other researchers set out to investigate the newly-found statistics. A study conducted by Dr. Stacy Loeb from the University of New York in 2015 studied medical records of over 20 thousand men living in Sweden. Why Sweden? This Scandinavian country keeps extremely meticulous and detailed medical records. The researchers found that between 2006 and 2012, 4065 of those men developed melanoma, and around 10% of those men had been taking Viagra, Cialis or Levitra; the occurrence of the disease was 21% higher among ED drug users than among non-users, which seemed to support the original 2014 report. However, the team decided to perform more tests, and the results were unexpected.

If Viagra did lead to cancer, then consumption of more Viagra would carry a higher cancer risk. However, mean who took more ED drugs did not show an increased risk of the disease. Moreover, no connection was found between taking Viagra and cancer in advanced stages – the only correlation was with the early stages of the disease. Another hypothesis that the researchers tested was that the drug that stays longer in the body (Cialis) would lead to higher risk of melanoma; once again, no connection was found (here you can find details on the original report http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2338254).

What does the connection mean?

As we have seen, ED drugs do not cause melanoma. And yet, the correlation exists. Why is that?

One possible reason could be the lifestyle pursued by men who take Viagra and other ED drugs, such as spending a lot of time in the sun doing sports and swimming, or vacationing in tropical destinations. UV radiation is the main cause of melanoma, and men often do not use proper protection. As a result, melanoma rates have risen dramatically since the 1990’s.

Another risk factor for skin cancer is age: the average diagnosis age is 63. On the other hand, according to Pfizer, most users of ED drugs are in their early and mid-50s; thus, they naturally have a higher risk of developing melanoma.

Finally, it may just be that users of Viagra think more about their health and go to the doctor more often, increasing the chances of getting diagnosed with skin cancer (an early diagnosis is a good thing, of course).

Users of erectile dysfunction drugs do not have to give them up out of fear of cancer – Viagra is safe. Skin cancer, on the other hand, is real and deadly – do not neglect the risk! We care about your health, so let us remind you to always use UV protection.

Viagra as a cure for cancer?

Amid the concerns that ED drugs may cause cancer, reports have emerged that it can if fact do quite the opposite! If this seems hard to believe, remember that Viagra was originally developed to treat angina (heart pain), and that Cialis is approved by the US Food and Drug administration to treat benign prostate enlargement.

Recent research by Dr. Darren Browning from the Georgia Cancer Center shows that Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors may help prevent colon cancer. Our colon is lined with a mucous membrane, which both protects the intestine and is essential for digestion. Normally this mucosa turns over every few days, but various health issues can disrupt the process and lead to formation of holes in the membrane and inflammation, known as colitis. Colon inflammation is a serious risk factor for colon cancer (and colitis is very painful by  itself).

Dr. Browning’s research shows that ED drugs can help strengthen the lining of the colon, preventing inflammation; they could replace steroids that are usually prescribed for colitis but have strong side effects. Dr. Browning has received a large grant from the US Cancer Institute to proceed with the studies – in case of success, it will be easy to begin clinical trials, since Viagra and Cialis are already recognized as safe and approved drugs.

We thank Piter N. for this research