Research Shows Increased Melanoma Risk in Men Who Use Viagra

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Increased Melanoma Risk in Men Who Use Viagra
Increased Melanoma Risk in Men Who Use Viagra

Increased Melanoma Risk in Men Who Use Viagra
Increased Melanoma Risk in Men Who Use Viagra

Men who use Viagra for erectile dysfunction face an increased risk of melanoma, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Viagra users have almost twice the melanoma risk, CBSMiami reports. Researchers saw this association in data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up (HPFS) a study begun in 1986 to evaluate a series of hypotheses about men’s health. The study followed 25,000 male health care professionals for ten years as part of the research, tracking which men developed melanoma and whether they used Viagra (sildenafil).

The melanoma risk was higher for those who were using the Viagra or had ever used the drug. The researchers say their findings do not mean that Viagra causes melanoma, and erectile dysfunction itself was not linked to increased risk. This is simply a statistical association the researchers noticed when they did their analysis. Dr. Brian Horvath, a dermatologist, said, “It may be that people who take Viagra are more likely to be out in the sun or more active in some way.” But, Dr. Horvath said, the risk of other skin cancers did not increase among Viagra users, which would be expected if sun exposure was a factor. Only the melanoma risk was increased, Horvath said, and this leaves open the question of whether the drug is the cause.

Viagra affects certain cell signals, similar to signals that allow melanoma cells to spread. Horvath explained, “Viagra blocks an enzyme called phosphodiesterase and most melanomas have a mutation that also blocks that enzyme.” When the study began, Viagra was the only FDA-approved erectile-dysfunction medication. Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil), and Stendra (avanafil) have since come on the market and they work in the same way does, blocking phosphodiesterase. CBSMaimi notes that it is possible similar patterns will be seen with these drugs as well.

Horvath advises men who are thinking about using Viagra that it “would be very reasonable” to have a baseline skin check before starting the medication. For men who have had a melanoma, Horvath says, “I would be cautious about taking Viagra in the future.” Another study, which also appeared in the Journal of American Medical Association, attributed the increase in malignant melanoma to socioeconomic and lifestyle factors. The researchers say men with higher incomes who are able to take vacations in the sun and can afford expensive ED medications have a higher chance of developing skin cancer.