‘Biggest’ study links high blood pressure to raised cancer risk

High blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of developing cancer, according to the largest study on the issue.

People with raised blood pressure also have a higher chance of dying from the disease, according to the research.

The study, led by Dr Mieke Van Hemelrijck, a research associate in the cancer epidemiology group at King’s College London, found that higher than normal blood pressure is linked with a 10 per cent to 20 per cent increased risk of developing cancer in men, and a higher risk of dying from the disease in both sexes.

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Dr Van Hemelrijck will present the findings at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm today.

Previous, smaller studies have produced conflicting results on a link between blood pressure and cancer. One study found the risk appeared to be higher for women than men.

The latest research involved analysing blood pressure data as well as figures on cancer incidents and death rates.

There were seven groups of participants in Norway, Austria and Sweden, totalling 289,454 men and 288,345 women.

The average age at the start of the study was 44 and people were followed for 12 years.

During that time, 22,184 men and 14,744 women were diagnosed with cancer and 8,724 men and 4,525 women died from the disease.

The overall risk of developing any cancer increased by 29 per cent between men with the lowest blood pressure in the study and those with the highest.

As blood pressure rose in men, so did their risk of oral, bowel, lung, bladder and kidney cancers, and melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, the study found.

In women, increased blood pressure was not statistically linked with an overall increased risk of developing any cancer, but was linked with a higher incidence of cancers of the liver, pancreas, cervix, womb and melanoma skin cancer.

In the study, the experts calculated mid-blood pressure by adding systolic blood pressure to diastolic blood pressure, then dividing by two. The participants were divided into five groups, ranging from those with the lowest mid-blood pressure reading to those with the highest.

Dr Van Hemelrijck said: “We found that men with mid-blood pressure in the highest fifth had an absolute risk of developing cancer of 16 per cent compared to an absolute risk of 13 per cent for those with mid-blood pressure in the lowest fifth.

“Men in the highest fifth had an absolute risk of dying from cancer of eight per cent, compared with an absolute risk of five per cent for those in the lowest; and for women, those in the highest fifth had an absolute risk of dying of five per cent compared to an absolute risk of four per cent in the lowest fifth.

“Our study shows that blood pressure is a risk factor for incident cancer in men and fatal cancer in men and women.

“Although the relative and absolute risk estimates were rather modest, these results are important from a public health perspective since a large proportion of the population in many western countries suffers from hypertension.”

Dr Maria Tennant, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Up until now, research to find out if high blood pressure increases cancer risk has revealed conflicting results.

“This large study suggests that people with higher blood pressure may have an increased risk of some cancers but its effect on men and women might be different.

“Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to investigate exactly how higher blood pressure might affect cancer development.”