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Study Links Use of Viagra to Increased Risk of Melanoma

Sep 12, 2014

According to a study published online April 7 in JAMA Internal Medicine, men who use Viagra (sildenafil) may have a higher risk of melanoma. MedScape reports that Wen-Qing Li, PhD, from the Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts led the study.

Studies in the past have shown that phosphodiesterase 5A (PDE5A) inhibitors, including Viagra, can promote melanin synthesis, which may increase the risk of melanoma. Research also suggests that Viagra and other PDE5A inhibitors induce melanoma cell invasion. This risk appears to be the highest in individuals who carry a mutation in the BRAF gene.

The researchers used the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study (HPFS) to analyze data from 25,848 men. In 2000, participants were asked if they were being treated or have ever been treated for erectile dysfunction (ED); 5.3 percent (1,378 participants) said they took Viagra within the last three months and 6.3 percent (1,618 participants) reported ever having taken it at all. Among this group, the rate of obesity was higher and there was a history of severe or blistering sunburn but less sun exposure in adulthood.

Diagnoses of melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) have been reported among HPFS participants since 1986. In 2010, there were 142 cases of melanoma, 580 cases of SCC, and 3030 cases of BCC. The risk of invasive melanoma was higher in men who took Viagra recently.

"The observed association between sildenafil use and melanoma might be partly attributed to the later use of vardenafil and tadalafil among recent sildenafil users. A longer clearance time of other PDE5A inhibitors could have augmented the observed HR for sildenafil." the researchers stated. "Our results should be interpreted cautiously and are insufficient to alter current clinical recommendations. Nevertheless, our data provide epidemiological evidence on possible skin adverse effects of PDE5A inhibitors and support continued investigation of this relationship."


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