Background: Previous studies have reported an increased risk of cancer with calcium-channel blockers in man. Other work in animals suggests that inhibitors of angiotensin-I-converting enzyme (ACE) protect against cancer. We aimed to assess the risk of cancer in hypertensive patients receiving ACE inhibitors or other antihypertensive drugs.
Methods: Our retrospective cohort study was based on the records of 5207 patients who attended the Glasgow Blood Pressure Clinic between Jan 1, 1980, and Dec 31, 1995. The patients' records are linked with the Registrar General Scotland and the West of Scotland Cancer Registry.
Findings: Compared with the West of Scotland controls, the relative risks of incident and fatal cancer among the 1559 patients receiving ACE inhibitors were 0.72 (95% CI 0.55-0.92) and 0.65 (0.44-0.93). Among the 3648 patients receiving antihypertensive drugs other than ACE inhibitors (calcium-channel blockers 1416, diuretics 2099, beta-blockers 2681), the corresponding relative risks were 110 (0.97-1.22) and 1.03 (0.87-1.20). The relative risk of cancer was lowest in women on ACE inhibitors: 0.63 (0.41-0.93) for incident cancer; 0.48 (0.23-0.88) for fatal cancer; and 0.37 (0.12-0.87) for female-specific cancers. The reduced relative risk of cancer in patients on ACE inhibitors was greatest with follow-up of longer than 3 years. Calcium-channel blockers, diuretics, and beta-blockers had no apparent effect on risk of cancer.
Interpretation: Long-term use of ACE inhibitors may protect against cancer. The status of this finding is more that of hypothesis generation than of hypothesis testing; randomised controlled trials are needed.