A warning has been issued for men who take popular erectile dysfunction drugs. The drugs may increase the risk of developing deadly malignant melanoma.
Here is a video report from 2014 “exposing” the risk of certain erectile dysfunction drugs, as we knew the information at that time.
This information made big headlines when it was originally published in 2014, but was it real?
While the news report above gives the basics, there’s more info that needs to be unpacked. According to Harvard Health, the study “published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 found that men who used the erection-enhancing drug sildenafil (Viagra) were 84% more likely to develop melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, over a period of 10 years.”
However, the author calls this a scientifically correct statement that could easily be misunderstood.
Here’s what we knew at the time:
- The 2014 study does not show that Viagra causes skin cancer.
- It shows that in a large case study of men, those who said they used Viagra ended up being diagnosed more often with melanoma than those who didn’t use this drug.
- This is called a connection, not a cause.
According to the author, even if Viagra does promote melanoma, “the absolute increase is small.”
Indeed, Science Daily later reported in 2017 that the findings were false.
“While the researchers found an overall 11 percent increase in the risk of developing melanoma among erection medication users, they found no evidence that erectile dysfunction medicines cause melanoma. Instead, the study authors attribute the risk to ‘detection bias,’ where the group of patients likely to take erection medicines also happens to be more health conscious, more likely to see a doctor, and so more likely to get diagnosed with melanoma than other men of similar age,” the report stated.
“Physicians should still screen for melanoma risk, but they do not need to add the use of Viagra and similar drugs to the list of screening criteria specifically,” said urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, an assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Perlmutter Cancer Center which conducted the study. “In general, men should continue to be careful about the risk of any kind of skin cancer from excessive sun exposure and use sun protection.”