Viagra and Melanoma: Should We Pay Attention?

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Could Viagra increase your risk of developing skin cancer? New research indicates a relationship between the drug and an increased risk of melanoma. Image by alexfrance.

Research has recently uncovered a possible connection between the deadly skin cancer, melanoma, and the popular erectile dysfunction drug,Viagra.

What is Viagra?

Viagra (sildenafil) is the most used drug for erectile dysfunction. Sales increase yearly, and the age group using the drug has expanded, with younger men now also asking for prescriptions.

The drug first showed up in 1998 and news about it spread rapidly.  This provider recalls men coming into the clinic whispering about the pills and asking for prescriptions, and drug reps reporting their cars being broken into by people stealing the blue pill samples.

Samples were then kept in locked in locked drawers, and some physicians took them home for themselves. Today, sales of Viagra total in the billions of dollars.

A lot is at stake when a highly popular and profitable drug might cause a deadly problem.

Side Effects of Viagra: Increased Risk of Melanoma

Viagra is overwhelmingly popular, but some men have experienced side effects. Until this most recent study came out about skin cancer, the most-reported side effects were headaches, vision problems including blindness, and facial flushing.

There is a caution regarding using the drug along with blood pressure medication or nitrates, since that can affect the heart and circulatory system,  The notorious ‘prolonged erection,’ providing material for jokes and television shows is possible – but rare. None of these effects have caused usage of Viagra to drop.

That may change, however, based on new data.

The June 2014 issue of Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) reported  in a cohort study of almost 29,000 men an increased risk  of melanoma seen in men who took Viagra.

There were 142 cases reported of melanoma, a cancer of the skin. Researchers proposed that using sildenafil allowed melanoma to spread. It is important to note that this study did not establish cause and effect. The men’s average age was 65.

Excluding other factors such as sun exposure, where they lived, etc, the risk of melanoma for Viagra users was double that of men who had never used the drug.  On the other hand, melanoma statistics have dropped as a whole since 1998.

Dr. Abrar Qureshi, a study author responded to concerns about stopping the use of Viagra by saying men who were inclined toward developing melanoma should speak to their doctors. This research did not indicate that any other forms of skin cancer were affected by the drug.

Viagra Benefits, Risks, and Decisions

Prior to Viagra, either a man remained impotent – that is unable to create or maintain an erection – or he had to use treatments such as an implanted pump or an injection of phentolamin. As a nurse, women would report to me they hated the sound of the man rattling around in the fridge to get his injection supplies, since the erection must be “used” immediately.  The romance factor was minimal.

The pill Viagra, on the other hand, can be taken discreetly. Typically 15 to 60 minutes after taking Viagra, with some form of physical or mental stimulation, an erection is possible.  As a result, it is no surprise that blogs and counter-information have quickly hit the Internet assuring concerned men this is mere postulation… and that they should continue using the Viagra.

Online doctors and pharmacies, such as Loyds Pharmacy, also want to assure men there is no need to stop purchasing their medication.

On the other hand, lawsuit firms are already soliciting clients who have melanoma and used Viagra.

Money, Melanoma, and Health

Sides are being taken and money is involved.  Be knowledgable about your health, and discuss concerns with your health care provider. Share your thoughts with us.

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