Many common medications, including antibiotics, drugs used for high blood pressure and to lower cholesterol, even over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin® or Aleve®, have unintended side effects and may increase the risk of developing skin cancers, according to a recent study led by Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS) radiation oncologist Dr. Gerald Sokol, who practices at the Hudson and New Port Richey locations of FCS.

The study, which will be published in October at the annual meeting of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), was co-authored by three of Dr. Sokol’s colleagues at FCS: Dr. Jorge Ayub and Dr. Gail Wright, who also both practice at the Hudson and New Port Richey locations, and Dr. David Wenk, who practices at the New Port Richey location.

As the study discusses, certain medications, known as “photosensitizing/photoallergenic drugs,” undergo chemical reactions when exposed to the sun or other ultra-violet (UV) light sources and can increase the risk of developing skin cancers, especially in patients who have been previously diagnosed and treated for skin cancer. The study included 200 Caucasian patients who received radiation therapy for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the two most common types of skin cancers. Drug categories in the study included antibiotics, antifungals (for athlete’s foot, etc.) antihistamines (allergies), antihyperlipidemics (lowering cholesterol), antihypertensives (blood pressure), and NSAIDs, commonly used for arthritis and other mild to moderate pain management. In its conclusion, the study recommended that skin cancer patients minimize or take precautions in using photosensitizing drugs. It stated, “The common use of photosensitizing drugs in skin cancer patients could potentially increase their risk for development of additional skin cancers and/or recurrences.” Additional recommendations include sun protection measures be taken with clothing and the use of sunscreen, as well as intensive skin cancer screenings.