Does Viagra Increase Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Men who use sildenafil (Viagra) may have an increased risk of developing melanoma, according to a study published in June, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine. No additional risk was found for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

     

    Researchers looked at information from 25,848 men (those who reported no cancer prior to the study) who completed the Health Professional’s Follow Up Study on a biannual basis beginning in 1986. The participants were asked questions about skin cancer throughout the study and their use of sildenafil for erectile dysfunction beginning in 2000, with 1,618 men reporting they had used Viagra. In total 3,752 cases of skin cancer were reported - 140 melanoma, 580 squamous cell carcinoma and 3030 basal cell carcinoma.

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    The scientists noted that those men who reported using Viagra were more likely to also report being diagnosed with melanoma. According to the results, 4.3 of every 1000 men who did not take Viagra reported melanoma and 8.6 of every 1000 men who took Viagra reported melanoma. This points to a 84 percent increase. The researchers, however, don’t believe that men should immediately stop using Viagra but should take steps to protect themselves from the sun’s rays and have regular skin check-ups for signs of skin cancer.

     

    Not everyone agrees with the interpretation of the study’s results. Daniel Pendick, the Executive Editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch posted a blog explaining that these results can be interpreted in different ways. He explains that there is a difference between relative risk (comparing one group to another) and an absolute increase, which is the difference between the two groups. In this case the absolute increase would be 8.6 less 4.3 or 4.3 of every 1000 men. This represents only an increase of 0.43 percent. In other words, Pendick believes there is possibly a “connection” between Viagra and skin cancer but does not signal that use of Viagra is a cause of skin cancer.

     

    While there may be some disagreement about how to interpret the results of the study, everyone agrees that men, especially older men, should be aware of the signs of skin cancer, should receive annual (or more frequent when necessary) skin screenings, perform self-checks on a monthly basis, seek treatment immediately if signs of skin cancer are noticed and should take the steps to protect their skin from further damage when out in the sun. It is estimated that over 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year and about 9,700 people will die from it; close to 6,500 men will die from melanoma.

Published On: August 13, 2014