Product Liability Update: Viagra Linked to Melanoma

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests a link between Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) and melanoma risk. The results indicate that the risk of developing melanoma is nearly doubled in Viagra users as compared to nonusers, and it is possible that the risk may increase by as much as 84%. The authors of the study caution that the results "are insufficient to alter current clinical recommendations," but urge that there is a need for further investigation into the observed link.

Viagra belongs to a class of drugs known as phosphodiesterase 5A (PDG5A) inhibitors. Examples of other PDG5A inhibitors include tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra). Medscape.com reports that other PDG5A inhibitors were not included in this most recent study because they were not approved for use when the study began.

Yet additional research indicates that there may be a link between such other PDG5A inhibitors and melanoma development, and the authors of the study note that the increased risk of melanoma observed in patients taking Viagra may be at least partly attributable to subsequent use of Cialis and Levitra.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the cells responsible for giving skin its color. Of the three types of skin cancer-melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma-melanoma is considered to be the most severe as it is the most aggressive.

Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, and often manifests as a change in an existing mole or the development of a new, perhaps abnormal-looking skin growth. Warning signs that moles may be indicative of melanoma include asymmetrical shapes, irregular borders, changes in color or multiple colors, increases in size, the growth of new moles near existing moles, or signs that a mole is otherwise changing.

The staging of melanoma is based on a number of factors, including the thickness of the growth and the extent to which the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The difference in survival rates varies dramatically depending on the stage of the cancer. The first stage, Stage 1A, has a 5-year survival rate of approximately 97%, and a 10-year survival rate of approximately 95%. The most advanced stage, Stage IV, has a 5-year survival rate of approximately 40%, and a 10-year survival rate of approximately 24%.

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