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Dr Mieke Van Hemelrijck will tell the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress [1] in Stockholm today (Tuesday) that there had been contradictory results from previous, smaller studies investigating the link between cancer and blood pressure. However, her study, which included 289,454 men and 288,345 women, showed that higher than normal blood pressure was statistically significantly associated with a 10-20% higher risk of developing cancer in men, and a higher risk of dying from the disease in both men and women.

Dr Van Hemelrijck, a research associate in the Cancer Epidemiology Group at King’s College London (London, UK), and her colleagues analysed data on blood pressure and cancer incidence and death in a prospective study that included seven groups of participants in Norway, Austria and Sweden.

They used figures on mid-blood pressure for their calculations. Mid-blood pressure is defined as systolic blood pressure plus diastolic blood pressure, divided by two. The average mid-blood pressure in this study was 107 mmHg for men and 102 mmHG for women [2]. The results were divided into five groups (or quintiles), so that people with the lowest mid-blood pressure were in the first, and those with the highest mid-blood pressure were in the fifth quintile.

After an average of 12 years of follow-up and excluding the first year, 22,184 men and 14,744 women had been diagnosed with cancer, and 8,724 men and 4,525 women died from the disease. The overall risk of developing any cancer increased by 29% between men in the lowest quintile and those in the highest. The researchers also found that, as blood pressure rose, the risk of oral, colorectal, lung, bladder, and kidney cancers, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers rose in men. In women, increased blood pressure was not statistically significantly associated with the overall risk of developing any cancer, but was associated with an increased risk of cancers of the liver, pancreas, cervix and endometrium and melanoma.

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