The association between the use of calcium channel blockers (CCB) and cancer has received ample attention, but is still controversial. In this study, we have tested the hypothesis that the observed association between CCB and cancer in earlier studies could be explained by residual confounding or by misclassification of exposure because of the use of cross-sectional data on drug use. Data from the Rotterdam Study, a prospective population-based cohort study in the municipal area Ommoord, were used. The study population consisted of a cohort of 3204 participants aged 71 years or older who were followed from a baseline interview in the period 1991-1993 for the occurrence of incident cancer. Data on drug use were gathered at baseline and through the seven community pharmacies which served the Ommoord region during the study period between 1 January 1991 and 1 January 1999. Incident cancer events were gathered from a nationwide registry of hospitalisation data and from a specialised cancer centre in the Rotterdam region. We performed three analyses. First, we followed the method, and adjusted for the same risk factors, as in the earlier studies. In the second analysis, we included all risk factors that were univariately associated with cancer in the Rotterdam Study. In the third analysis, we included exposure to CCBs as time-varying co-variates, while adjusting for potential confounders. The relative risk (RR) of cancer associated with CCB was 1.4 (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.9-2.0) in the first analysis and lowered to 1.2 (95% CI: 0.8-1.8) upon adjustment for the different co-variates in the second. In both analyses, however, verapamil was significantly associated with cancer with RRs of 2.1 (95% CI: 1.1-4.0) and 2.0 (1.01-3.9), respectively, whereas no associations were found with the other CCB in this study, i.e. diltiazem and nifedipine. A significantly increased risk of cancer was found for intermediate daily doses of verapamil and diltiazem. Intake of other antihypertensives such as β-blocking agents, diuretics and ACE-inhibitors was not associated with cancer. In the third analysis with exposure to CCB as time-varying co-variates, the risk increase was non-significant for use of 2 years or less, 1.0 (95% CI: 0.7-1.5), and for use for a cumulative period of more than 2 years, 1.3 (95% CI: 0.8-2.0). However, in all models the hazard ratio was statistically significantly increased for verapamil, but not for diltiazem and nifedipine. On the basis of these analyses, we found no increase in cancer in users of diltiazem and nifedipine, nor in users of other antihypertensives. In line with earlier studies, however, we found an increased risk of cancer in users of verapamil. At variance with the conclusions from several other studies, we think that it is too early to conclude that CCB are not associated with cancer.

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European Journal of Cancer
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Beiderbeck-Noll, A., Sturkenboom, M., van der Linden, P., Herings, R., Hofman, A., Coebergh, J. W., … Stricker, B. (2003). Verapamil is associated with an increased risk of cancer in the elderly: The Rotterdam study. European Journal of Cancer, 39(1), 98–105. doi:10.1016/S0959-8049(02)00157-0