Viagra and Melanoma | Is there a Link?

viagraIf you want an erection, Viagra seems to work. Over 23 million men a year can’t be wrong.  It is easy to joke about but it is obviously a great thing for many men.  But for the last 16 years since Viagra received FDA approval in 1998, we have been trying to figure out what side effects Viagra has.  Because people have a right to balance their desire to keep an erection – and also consider the other drugs they might use – and the medication’s side effects.   We have heard lots of discussion of  vision-threatening complications and hearing loss.  Now there is a new deadly concern:  melanoma.

Sildenafil citratre, more commonly known as Viagra, is used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) by relaxing muscles and increasing blood flow to particular areas of the body.  Now, in a study recently published online in JAMA Medicine, it has been reported that men who have used Viagra for ED had a significantly elevated risk of melanoma.  Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is the leading cause of death from skin disease.  While melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancer cases each year, it makes up the majority of skin cancer fatalities.  

The study, involving researchers from Harvard and Brown Universities, compared the medical charts of 26,000 men to see if cancer rates differed among those who took Viagra and those who did not.  The study revealed that men who had taken Viagra for erectile dysfunction had double the risk of developing melanoma than men who had not taken the drug.

The study further reported that those currently taking the drug had a 84% higher risk of developing melanoma.  While researchers said that it is still too early to alter prescriptions for Viagra, they are urging increased investigations into the link.  They recommend that those taking the medication touch base with their physicians.

To quite the contrary, these findings challenge a 2011 study conducted by a team at the University Medical Center Manheim in which studies found that Viagra neutralized a melanoma tumor’s inflammatory immune response in a group of mice.  There are, however, many issues with medical trials on mice extending to human trial successes.

What are the other concerns?

While in clinical trials, the most common side effects of sildenafil included headache, flushing, dyspepsia, and nasal congestion, there were more concerning problems. Impaired vision was reported as a side effect.  This included photophobia, a sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and even cyanopsia, seeing everything as tinted blue. Of more concern, the side effect of the sudden loss of hearing prompted the FDA in 2007 to announce that the labeling required a more prominent warning of the potential risk of sudden hearing loss.

Are you saying Viagra should be recalled?

I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting a Viagra recall.  The question is whether men (and some women) are being properly notified of all of the risks so they can make an informed choice.  It might be that Viagra causes melanoma at a very low rate.  Do you still want to take it?  Who knows?  Maybe you do.  But you ought to have the right to know the issue, know the risks and make an informed choice.  Often, drug manufacturers don’t give us that choice because they don’t want fear of the risks to depress sales.

What can I do about it now?

Still, it’s the recent findings that has the medical community talking.  But, this study does not prove cause and effect, it was just an observational population study.  Further research is necessary in order to determine a link.  But we are looking at this closely and talking to potential clients.  Why?  Because we have seen this story before.  Where there is smoke,  there is usually some fire.  So while the jury is still out on whether there is a link between Viagra and melanoma, history tells us there very well may be a link and potential victims should start getting their ducks in a row if the data turns out how it looks like it might.

If you or someone you love has had melanoma while taking Viagra, tell us your story at 1.800.553.8082 or you can tell us about it online here.

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