Strange Bedfellows: Viagra and Skin Cancer

(AP Photo/Pfizer Inc.)
(AP Photo/Pfizer Inc.)

(WTNH)  Decisions, decisions.

New research out today shows a link between a class of erectile dysfunction drugs and a slightly higher risk of skin cancer.  Nothing to get alarmed about, 50-ish dudes with salt and pepper hair playing classic rock songs with your old pals, or all you middle-aged cats sitting next to your “special lady” in side-by-side tubs watching the sunset over the ocean.  But here’s the deal:

The research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association used Swedish medical records (I have no idea how Sweden got involved, since the study was led by a doctor from New York University) to find 4-thousand cases of melanoma, a common form of skin cancer.  Compared to cancer-free men in a control group, researchers found the risk of melanoma was 21% higher in men who used the class of ED drugs that include brands Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis.

Oddly, the higher risk was seen in men who had filled only a single prescription, versus those who took the ED drugs more often.  There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I don’t have time to look for it.

Skin cancer is no laughing matter, or course, and the study comes with the usual disclaimers.  According to the Secretary General of the European Association of Urology (Secretary General? — I’ll bet those guys have some wacky conventions) the results are interesting, but more research is needed.  Also, for reasons unknown, the men taking ED drugs were at risk of low grade melanoma, not the more dangerous, difficult-to-treat kind.

The Secretary General urged people with the urge not to curtail their use of erectile dysfunction medications.  Which always makes me wonder, covering studies like this, why they published it in the first place.  Good conversation starter, I guess, at that next over-50 speed dating gathering.  Or when the band is taking a break after a particularly powerful version of “Free Bird.”

 

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