Viagra ( Sildenafil )

Can Cialis Cause Melanoma?

Malignant Melanoma has been diagnosed more frequently among users of the erectile dysfunction (ED) medication known as Viagra.

Since the release of a study that found an association between Viagra (sildenafil) and melanoma, there has been concern over whether similar drugs can cause melanoma, putting men who take E.D. medications at a significantly elevated risk for the disease.

Other drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction, Cialis (tadalafil), Stendra (avanafil) and Levitra (vardenafil), are members of the same drug class, known as PDE5 inhibitors. Although researchers did not include these drugs in their study, their biochemistry is similar – and since these remain in the body for a longer time, it could make the cancer risk even greater.

How do PDE5 Inhibitors Work?

Originally designed to treat high blood pressure, PDE5 inhibitors essentially cause the smooth muscles in blood vessels to relax and open up. They accomplish this by increasing the release of nitric oxide in these vessels, which in turn activates an enzyme known as guanylate cyclase. When this enzyme is activated, it increases levels of another biochemical, cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP).

This relaxation effect on blood vessels is why these drugs may also be used off-label to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate). It is also why Cialis and other PDE5 inhibitors are not recommended for those who take nitrovasodilators for angina pectoris, as they can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer which develops in the melanocytes – the cells in skin which give color by producing melanin. Obviously, melanoma occurs in the skin but can also occur more rarely in the eyes and internal organs.

The dangers of melanoma lie in the difficulties of treating the condition in its advanced stages. Because of the higher mortality rate associated with late stage melanoma, early detection is important.

Most times, melanoma will occur in discolored spots. In some cases, melanomas will grow within older moles. Patients can monitor their moles at home and look for the following ABCDEs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetrical shape: moles with two halves which are very different;
  • Irregular Border: moles with irregular, notched, or scalloped edges;
  • Changes in color: moles which change color or which have an uneven coloring;
  • Diameter: moles with new growth over ¼ inch or 6 millimeters;
  • Evolving: moles that change in size, color, or shape over time or that develop itchiness or bleeding.

People should always consult with their doctor if they are concerned about skin cancer.

Like many skin cancers, melanoma is typically caused by exposure to the sun. The sun produces UV radiation which damages the DNA in cells and increases the chance of mutation, eventually leading to cancerous growths. Although UV exposure is the most well known cause of melanoma, according to recent studies, medications such as Viagra may be associated with the development of melanoma.

How Could PDE5 Inhibitors Cause Melanoma?

PDE5 inhibitors use the same biological pathways as melanoma cells, which some research indicates may allow the malignant cells to proliferate and spread.

It is not so much that drugs such as Cialis and Viagra cause melanoma by themselves; rather, they appear to open up a pathway that makes it more likely that melanoma can develop.

What are the Risks of These Medications?

It should be noted that association does not necessarily equal causation. Nonetheless, an analysis of data from the Harvard School of Public Health has found that out of 26,000 men who took Viagra between 2000 and 2010, approximately 13.4 percent had developed some form of skin cancer.

They concluded that men who took Viagra regularly were 84 percent more likely to develop melanoma that those who did not. Those who took it at one time but had discontinued the medication were 50 percent more likely to get melanoma. These findings held even when other risk factors, such as genetics, sun exposure, hair and skin color and mole count were eliminated.

While acknowledging the association between PDE5 inhibitors and melanoma, medical scientists say that more studies are necessary in order to confirm whether or not these drugs actually do cause melanoma.

african man checking skin for melanomaHow Worried Should I Be About The Melanoma Risk?

It is important to remember that the jury is still out on any possible correlation between erectile drugs and melanoma. The Former Executive Editor at Harvard Men’s Health Watch, Daniel Pendick, explains that though some research indicates that there may be a connection between erectile dysfunction drugs and melanoma, this does not mean that erectile dysfunction drugs can cause melanoma.

Instead, the correlation could point to other connections. For instance, older men are more likely to take erectile dysfunction drugs than younger men. Older men are also more likely to develop melanoma, because their skin has been exposed to the sun over a longer period of time.

Science Daily’s report on another study about erectile dysfunction drugs and melanoma is somewhat in line with Pendick’s commentary on the issue. Science Daily explains that research done by NYU’s Langone Medical Center and the Perlmutter Cancer Center indicated that instead of a causal relationship, the relationship between erectile dysfunction medications and melanoma was probably “detection bias.” In other words, men who take erectile dysfunction are also among those patients who proactively care for their health in other ways, including by getting screened for melanoma.

Researchers on the study recommended that doctors should look out for the melanoma risk, but do not need to list erectile dysfunction medications for particular screening.

After a 2014 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found a link between Viagra use and melanoma, the FDA added Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors on a “watch list” of medications that could possibly have damaging health effects. This then spurred further research, which indicated that the connection may not be as concerning as previously thought, says Science Daily.

Did Drugmakers Know Their Products Might Cause Melanoma?

Pfizer, the original manufacturer of Viagra, has been a defendant in lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who accuse the drugmaker of failure to warn and fraudulent concealment. Eli Lilly, the company behind Cialis, was added as a defendant in 2016.

Melanoma remains a rare condition, making up under 2 percent of skin cancer cases (basal cell and squamous are more common). It is also highly treatable if diagnosed early on.

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with melanoma after using Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, you may have a legal claim. Personal injury lawyers are helping victims and their families pursue compensation for their injuries. If you have a case, you could be able to recover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.