Association between antihypertensive medications and risk of skin cancer in people older than 65 years: a population-based study

CMAJ. 2021 Apr 12;193(15):E508-E516. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.201971.


Background: The risk of skin cancer associated with antihypertensive medication use is unclear, although thiazides have been implicated in regulatory safety warnings. We aimed to assess whether use of thiazides and other antihypertensives is associated with increased rates of keratinocyte carcinoma and melanoma.

Methods: We conducted a population-based inception cohort study using linked administrative health data from Ontario, 1998-2017. We matched adults aged ≥ 66 years with a first prescription for an antihypertensive medication (thiazides, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, β-blockers) by age and sex to 2 unexposed adults who were prescribed a non-antihypertensive medication within 30 days of the index date. We evaluated each antihypertensive class in a separate cohort study. Our primary exposure was the cumulative dose within each class, standardized according to the World Health Organization's Defined Daily Dose. Outcomes were time to first keratinocyte carcinoma, advanced keratinocyte carcinoma and melanoma.

Results: The inception cohorts included a total of 302 634 adults prescribed an antihypertensive medication and 605 268 unexposed adults. Increasing thiazide exposure was associated with an increased rate of incident keratinocyte carcinoma (adjusted hazard ratios [HRs] per 1 Defined Annual Dose unit 1.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03-1.14), advanced keratinocyte carcinoma (adjusted HR 1.07, 95% CI 0.93-1.23) and melanoma (adjusted HR 1.34, 95% CI 1.01-1.78). We found no consistent evidence of association between other antihypertensive classes and keratinocyte carcinoma or melanoma.

Interpretation: Higher cumulative exposure to thiazides was associated with increased rates of incident skin cancer in people aged 66 years and older. Consideration of other antihypertensive treatments in patients at high risk of skin cancer may be warranted.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Antihypertensive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Sodium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Sodium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Sunlight / adverse effects


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Sodium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors