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Great News! There’s No Link Between Melanoma and Viagra, Cialis

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Commonsense protective measures against the dangerous rays of the sun should be a priority, but men taking ED drugs need no longer worry that those medications increase their risk of developing melanoma.

For the past few years many men who regularly use one of the oral erectile dysfunction drugs have tried to limit their exposure to the sun, largely on the basis of a 2014 study that linked ED drug use to an increased risk of melanoma.

With summer now upon us, these men need no longer linger in the shadows but can once again enjoy their time in the sun as long as they take the usual protective measures to minimize the damaging effects of the sun’s rays.

This welcome news came in the form of a large-scale meta-analysis of data collected in five relevant studies that covered more than 866,000 men. The data analysis, conducted by five researchers affiliated with New York University’s Department of Urology, was published in the August 2017 issue of the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute.”

Data from 5 Studies Analyzed

Included in the data analysis were three case-control studies and two cohort studies, all of which were published between 1998 and 2016. Although the 2017 analysis found that men using ED drugs were 11 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, researchers discounted this as any evidence of a causal link between the drugs and the skin cancer.

Melanoma diagnoses were more common among men taking low doses of the ED medications, which led the research team to conclude that this increased incidence of melanoma was tied not to the use of ED drugs but to other unrelated factors.

Researchers ascribed this finding to a phenomenon known as “detection bias,” which maintains that men taking ED drugs are more health-conscious than the general population and thus more likely to see a doctor regularly. As a result, they are more likely to be diagnosed than men who are less health-conscious and visit health professionals less often.

2014 Study Caused Concern

The original cause for concern about a possible link between the use of ED medications and a higher risk of melanoma arose in the wake of a study published in the June 2014 issue of “JAMA Internal Medicine.” The journal is part of the JAMA Network, a group of professional medical journals published by the American Medical Association.

The research team behind the 2014 study tracked the incidence of skin cancer development in 25,848 men who were participants in the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study. The health of these men was tracked for a decade — from 2000 to 2010. Researchers found that those who had reported using sildenafil — the active ingredient in Viagra — had a higher incidence of skin cancers, including melanoma, over the 10-year period.

Several Skin Cancers Diagnosed

During the decade that their overall health and skin cancer incidence were closely monitored, 142 men were diagnosed with melanoma, 580 with squamous cell carcinoma, and 3,030 with basal cell carcinoma. The researchers noted that “recent sildenafil use at baseline was significantly associated with an increased risk of subsequent melanoma. . . .”

This led the research team to conclude that “sildenafil use may be associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma,” a conclusion that has been called into question by the more recent study.

Most Skin Cancers Mild

While skin cancer is by far the most widely diagnosed cancer worldwide, according to the American Cancer Society, the vast majority of these cancers are of the milder forms — basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These less serious skin cancers should be treated but are generally much slower growing and less likely to metastasize — spread to other sites in the body.

However, melanoma is by far the deadliest form of skin cancer, taking the lives of nearly 10,000 Americans every year, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.

Although this cancer shows up most often on the skin, a form known as cutaneous melanoma, it can also show up elsewhere in the body. The other primary forms of the skin cancer are known as mucosal melanoma and ocular melanoma.

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Mucosal and Ocular Melanoma

Mucosal melanoma can attack mucosal membranes anywhere in the body. It’s been diagnosed in the mucosa of the mouth, nasal passages, and throat, as well as the delicate mucosal lining of the anus and vagina.

As its name suggests, ocular melanoma shows up in the eye. Relatively rare, it is also known as choroidal melanoma and uveal melanoma.

While the recent data analysis refutes the causal link between oral ED drugs and the risk of melanoma, both men and women should guard against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation, whether it comes from the sun or an indoor tanning bed.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

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If you expect to be spending any time out in the sun, be sure to apply generous amounts of high-SPF sunscreen to all areas of your skin that will be exposed.

MRF offers the following recommendations to reduce your risk of developing melanoma or any other skin cancer:

  • Generously apply high-SPF sunscreen to all exposed skin, even on cloudy days. Use roughly one ounce — enough to fill a shot glass — of sunscreen 15 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily.
  • Avoid burning the skin. Parents should take special care to protect their children from getting sunburn.
  • Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Avoid the use of indoor tanning beds.
  • Try to avoid the hottest hours of the day — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Don’t depend on the sun to supply all of your daily requirements for vitamin D. Try to get it through foods enriched with the vitamin or supplements.

If this article has piqued your interest and you would like to stay abreast of the latest developments on the consumer health front, check out our blog.

 

About Don Amerman

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+