TORONTO – Health Canada says prolonged use of a drug commonly prescribed for high blood pressure could increase the person's risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer.
Hydrochlorothiazide is a diuretic, or water pill, which is also prescribed to reduce fluid retention associated with heart failure and some problems with the kidney and liver.
A health review by Health Canada found that taking the medication can make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and tanning equipment.
The review of research findings suggests that patients taking the drug for more than three years could have a four-fold higher risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer.
However, Health Canada says that because of the limitations in the studies, such as a lack of patient data on sun exposure and severity, there is uncertainty regarding the findings.
Even so, people taking hydrochlorothiazide are advised to limit UV exposure and seek medical attention if they identify new skin lesions or changes in moles.
The federal department says the doctors should consider alternative drugs for patients with an elevated risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, including those with fair skin or a personal or family history of skin cancer.