Hypertension is defined as a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. Blood pressure above 140/90 is hypertension and it is considered severe when the count reaches beyond 180/120, causing health conditions like heart disease and stroke which could be fatal. Likewise, cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably, destroying the healthy body tissues. If detected at the later stages, it could possibly claim lives.
While these are two very different anomalies, hypertension and cancer are related to each other in three ways. First, both are non-communicable, lifestyle diseases which could be managed by following a healthy diet and an active way of living. Second, both are two leading global causes of death. Third and most interestingly, hypertension can amp up the risk of cancer.
Hypertension, a potential risk factor of cancer
Not for just one, hypertension or increased blood pressure is observed to enhance the risk of 19 different kinds of cancer, specifically kidney, renal cell carcinoma, breast, colorectal, endometrial and bladder cancers. In all these cases, high blood pressure has played an active role in speeding up the process of cancer initiation in the human body. Hypertensive men are found to be more prone to developing prostate cancer and hypertensive women are at a greater risk of getting breast cancer.
Finding the association between hypertension and cancer
Cell Proliferation: Cancers are known to be characterised by cell proliferation. It is a process that involves cell growth and division to produce two daughter cells. This leads to a significant increase in cell number and rapid mechanism of tissue growth. It has been observed that a heightened cell proliferation occurs also among those with high blood pressure and atherosclerosis – a disease of the arteries characterised by the deposition of fatty material on their inner walls. This suggests that hypertension shares certain characteristics with the process of abnormal cell proliferation that are associated with cancer, thereby indicating a direct link between blood pressure levels and overall risk of cancer.
GRK4 Protein: High levels of GRK4 protein (G-protein coupled receptor kinase 4) are shown to cause high blood pressure. The same protein has been found to be present in breast cancer cells. GRK4 is known to be regulated by an oncogene called c-Myc which plays a role in initiating several cancers. This is how hypertensive can be linked with higher risk of cancer via GRK4.
Managing hypertension to curb cancer risk
In order to keep the risk of cancer at bay, it is essential to check high blood pressure and keep it under control. These ways can help one manage hypertension.
● Weight loss and watching the waistline can help in keeping blood pressure down the line as excessive weight gain and an increased waistline contribute to blood pressure.
● Regular exercise and an active lifestyle can keep obesity in check and significantly help in keeping blood pressure stable.
● Eating the right food is important to control hypertension. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can lower high blood pressure.
● It is important to control the intake of salt as Sodium is known to elevate blood pressure levels. Having more Potassium in the diet can help in balancing out Sodium intake and keep blood pressure in control.
● Restricting consumption of alcohol and giving up smoking are great ways to keep blood pressure in check. Excessive alcohol and nicotine are known to enhance blood pressure levels.
● Getting adequate sleep is essential to keep blood pressure in control. Poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep and sleep apnoea are potential risk factors of hypertension.
Hypertension, a common effect of cancer treatment
Some of the cancer treatment procedures like chemotherapy, targeted therapy and certain hormone therapy can increase blood pressure levels. Thus, it is important to be aware of managing high blood pressure during cancer treatment. Maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy diet, cutting down salt, alcohol and caffeine, quitting smoking and monitoring blood pressure on a daily basis are a couple of ways to deal with hypertension during cancer treatment.
Things patients should do with high blood pressure and cancer
It is required for a patient to let the treating doctor know about their past medical history related to blood pressure. Also, they should be particular about checkups and routine blood pressure screenings. Besides, she should be fully aware of the course of treatment and must take steps to improve overall health and help manage blood pressure.
When it comes to cancer, blood pressure needs to be tackled for reducing cancer risk as blood pressure could be a potential trigger for cancer. Consult a medical professional to learn more about the impact of hypertension on cancer patients.
Dr. Vijay Aditya Yadaraju, Radiation Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre Visakhapatnam.