No Sign Common Steroid Spironolactone Can Cause Cancer: Study

THURSDAY, March 10, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The often-used steroid spironolactone is not linked to any increased risk of a range of common cancers, according to a new study.

The synthetic steroid is routinely used to manage heart failure, high blood pressure and edema, and also used off-label to treat acne, hair loss and excessive hair growth (hirsutism).

“Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned that ‘unnecessary use of this drug should be avoided,’ our data are reassuring that spironolactone is unlikely to be associated with a meaningful risk of cancer when prescribed at clinical doses,” said senior author Dr. John Barbieri, a specialist in dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Despite its widespread use, the drug’s cancer-causing potential is poorly understood.

To learn more, researchers analyzed seven studies involving more than 4.5 million people. They looked at the rates of several types of cancer among adults 18 and older who took the drug at least once.

The review found no significant link between spironolactone use and the risk of breast, ovarian, kidney, gastric and esophageal cancers. Treatment with the drug was, however, associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

The findings were recently published in JAMA Dermatology.

The authors said more research in diverse groups of people such as younger patients and those with acne or hirsutism is needed to determine whether these findings apply to other populations.

“Understanding the relationship between spironolactone and its potential for [producing tumors] will ultimately allow us to provide our patients with answers about the risk of cancer and improve the care we can deliver,” Barbieri said in a hospital news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about spironolactone.

SOURCE: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, news release, March 7, 2022