A pill costing just 5p a day could save the lives of thousands by stopping tumour growth
Beta blockers commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems have been found to reduce the skin cancer death rate by 13 per cent by preventing tumours spreading to other organs.
An international team of researchers have discovered that the drugs, handed out to hundreds, can also help those with malignant melanoma, giving them a higher chance of survival.
The scientists from Ohio State University in the US and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark looked at the records of 4,000 people. They found that those who had been taking the drugs for at least three months before being diagnosed with cancer had a higher survival rate.
‘Our data did not reveal any impact of beta blocker use on the incidence of cancer,’ say the researchers. ‘But the drugs may have unrecognised potential as a theraputic intervention for melanoma and possibly other forms of cancer.’
The scientists believe the pills have the ability to prevent cancer from spreading by stopping the growth of blood vessels that supply tumours.
There are more than 10,000 new cases of malignant melanoma every year, resulting in 2,000 deaths. Researchers at Nottingham University believe beta blockers could see a 71 per cent reduction in deaths among women taking the drugs.
A larger international study this summer suggests the beta blocker, propranolol, cuts the chance of death by as much as 81 per cent.