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Shezad Malik MD JD
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Viagra Increased Risk For Melanoma?

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A delayed diagnosis of metastatic melanoma can mean rapid death. Men who use Viagra to get a rise in the bedroom may find that the little blue pill also may increase the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Recently medical studies have indicated that there may be a link between Viagra, a popular drug and melanoma skin cancer.

Viagra Melanoma AttorneyWhat is Viagra?

Viagra is a blockbuster drug for men, that is used to treat erectile dysfunction, other known as ED. Viagra (sildenafil citrate) is manufactured by Pfizer and released in 1998.

The current ED medications belong to a class of drugs known as PDE-5 inhibitors. They enhance blood flow to the spongy tissues in the penis, which creates an erection. Other medications include tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and avanafil (Stendra).

Viagra has been aggressively promoted in direct to consumer advertisements in print and tv as a safe treatment for ED.

Viagra Study: Risky Business

The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in June, found that men who used the erection-enhancing drug Viagra were 84% more likely to develop melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, over a period of 10 years.

The average age of men in the study was 65 and about 6 percent had taken Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction. If men had ever used Viagra, the risk of developing melanoma was about double than for those who never used the drug.

That finding held true even when the researchers adjusted for a family history of skin cancer, ultraviolet light exposure in the states where the men lived, other kinds of cancer and major illnesses and other factors.

Viagra may increase the risk of melanoma because it affects the same genetic pathway that allows the skin cancer to become more invasive. Those who took the drug weren’t at higher risk of other, less-dangerous skin cancers, such as basal cell or squamous cell cancers.

Researchers found that Viagra lowers levels of a cancer-fighting protein called PDE5A, this may lead the melanoma skin cancer cells to become more invasive.

Whether a similar connection might exist between other erectile dysfunction drugs and melanoma isn’t known. In 2000, when the study was started, Viagra was the only erectile dysfunction drug on the market. Tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) weren’t approved until 2003, while avanafil (Stendra) came on the market in 2012.

There is no medical benefit for taking Viagra other than a temporary relief of ED.

Melanoma Can Be Deadly

According to the American Cancer Society, about 76,100 new melanoma cases are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014, and about 9,710 people will die, including about 6,470 men. The skin cancer usually appears as unusual moles or patches of skin.

Melanoma can be curable if diagnosed early, but in some instances by the time melanoma is diagnosed, it may have metastasized or spread beyond the skin and local lymph nodes, making treatment difficult and ultimately fatal.

Viagra Blockbuster Drug For Pfizer

In 2012, Viagra provided a windfall for Pfizer with $2 billion in sales. Now Pfizer may be exposed to lawsuits alleging that the company failed to warn consumers about the potential risk of melanoma from Viagra.

According to recently filed lawsuits, they all have similar allegations that if information and warnings had been provided to consumers and doctors, they may have avoided a diagnosis of melanoma by taking the ED drug or that they may have been able to diagnosed the melanoma skin cancer earlier if warnings had been provided about the importance of monitoring for signs or symptoms of melanoma.