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Viagra Unlikely To Cause Skin Cancer, Study Finds

06/24/2015 01:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Last year, a study suggested the use of Viagra may be associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma -- one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer -- and sounded alarm bells for users of the drug.

But fortunately for takers of the popular cure for erectile dysfunction, a new study published this week found that the drug may indeed cause side effects, but skin cancer isn't one of them.

A rigorous analysis of more than 20,000 medical records concluded that erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra are not a cause of melanoma, despite the higher risk for the disease among users of these drugs. Instead, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that the likely source of the uptick in malignant melanoma risk is socioeconomic and lifestyle based.

"What our study results show is that groups of men who are more likely to get malignant melanoma include those with higher disposable incomes and education -- men who likely can also afford more vacations in the sun -- and who also have the means to buy erectile dysfunction medications, which are very expensive," said Dr. Stacy Loeb, the lead investigator, in a written release.

Loeb says that while there was a greater statistical risk of developing malignant melanoma among erectile dysfunction drug users (an overall increased risk of 21 percent for having filled a single prescription), a closer look at the numbers uncovered no increased risk among those men with the most prescriptions. Researchers say that a "dose relationship" -- i.e., the more drugs taken the higher the risk -- would typically be expected if the drugs were a direct cause of the cancer.

While Viagra may not raise the risk of skin cancer, researchers previously have uncovered some potentially troublesome side effects including headaches, nausea, stomach pain, loss of hearing and, in rare cases, color blindness.

Even so, Loeb said that, overall, medications for erectile dysfunction are safe medications.

A detailed report on the research findings has been published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Though melanoma accounts for less than two percent of skin cancer cases each year, it makes up the majority of skin cancer fatalities. According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, about 9,940 people are expected to die of melanoma this year; 6,640 of those are men.

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