New Treatment for Melanoma

melanomaDrugs used to treat high blood pressure and costing less than 5p a day could reduce the death toll from skin cancer, scientists have discovered. Beta-blockers cut deaths from malignant melanomas by around 13 per cent, researchers have found.

Scientists think the drugs, which have been around for more than 50 years, may not necessarily stop people from getting skin cancer but instead prevent the disease from spreading to other vital organs. The findings, by a team of American and Danish scientists, come just days after Cancer Research UK, Britain’s biggest cancer charity, announced it was funding a leading investigation, involving 30,000 women, to see if beta-blockers top breast cancer spreading.

The drugs work by preventing stress hormones, such as adrenaline, from stimulating cells in heart tissue and increasing blood pressure. Scientists from Ohio State University and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark studied 4,000 skin cancer patients and analysed how many had been taking beta-blockers. Each patient was followed up for almost five years to see who survived and who did not. The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed 372 of the patients were coincidentally prescribed beta-blockers, for heart-related conditions, around the time of their cancer diagnosis.

When they looked at mortality rates in this group, they found that those on beta-blockers in the three months before they got cancer were 13 per cent less likely to die from their subsequent tumour than those who did not have the drugs.

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