Open Access Research article

Drugs affecting the renin-angiotensin system and survival from cancer: a population based study of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer patient cohorts

Chris R Cardwell1*, Úna C Mc Menamin1, Blánaid M Hicks1, Carmel Hughes2, Marie M Cantwell1 and Liam J Murray1

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Epidemiology and Health Services Research Group, Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland

2 School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland

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BMC Medicine 2014, 12:28  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-28

Published: 13 February 2014



Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are commonly prescribed to the growing number of cancer patients (more than two million in the UK alone) often to treat hypertension. However, increased fatal cancer in ARB users in a randomized trial and increased breast cancer recurrence rates in ACEI users in a recent observational study have raised concerns about their safety in cancer patients. We investigated whether ACEI or ARB use after breast, colorectal or prostate cancer diagnosis was associated with increased risk of cancer-specific mortality.


Population-based cohorts of 9,814 breast, 4,762 colorectal and 6,339 prostate cancer patients newly diagnosed from 1998 to 2006 were identified in the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink and confirmed by cancer registry linkage. Cancer-specific and all-cause mortality were identified from Office of National Statistics mortality data in 2011 (allowing up to 13 years of follow-up). A nested case–control analysis was conducted to compare ACEI/ARB use (from general practitioner prescription records) in cancer patients dying from cancer with up to five controls (not dying from cancer). Conditional logistic regression estimated the risk of cancer-specific, and all-cause, death in ACEI/ARB users compared with non-users.


The main analysis included 1,435 breast, 1,511 colorectal and 1,184 prostate cancer-specific deaths (and 7,106 breast, 7,291 colorectal and 5,849 prostate cancer controls). There was no increase in cancer-specific mortality in patients using ARBs after diagnosis of breast (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.06 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.84, 1.35), colorectal (adjusted OR = 0.82 95% CI 0.64, 1.07) or prostate cancer (adjusted OR = 0.79 95% CI 0.61, 1.03). There was also no evidence of increases in cancer-specific mortality with ACEI use for breast (adjusted OR = 1.06 95% CI 0.89, 1.27), colorectal (adjusted OR = 0.78 95% CI 0.66, 0.92) or prostate cancer (adjusted OR = 0.78 95% CI 0.66, 0.92).


Overall, we found no evidence of increased risks of cancer-specific mortality in breast, colorectal or prostate cancer patients who used ACEI or ARBs after diagnosis. These results provide some reassurance that these medications are safe in patients diagnosed with these cancers.

Colorectal cancer; Breast cancer; Prostate cancer; Mortality; Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers