Viagra® Increases Risk of Skin Cancer, Studies Say

Sokolove Law is no longer accepting Viagra® and Revatio® cases.

We’ve all seen their TV commercials, the ones with the gray-haired men doing manly things – sailing, using construction tools, driving convertibles, hitching up horses to a truck – and we know all of the taglines: “This is the age of taking action” or “Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex.”

Yes, the Viagra® commercials. But what the cool, gravelly voice doesn’t tell you is that taking Viagra could be a fatal choice. Recent studies have shown that using Viagra increases one’s risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer there is. As a result, more and more Viagra users diagnosed with melanoma are suing Pfizer, Viagra’s maker, for withholding this potentially lifesaving information.

In another series of Viagra commercials, aging female models urge men to try the erectile dysfunction medication. “If E.D. is stopping what you started, ask your doctor about Viagra,” a woman suggests in one TV spot. Before taking the advice, though, perhaps men should also consider: if dying from skin cancer is a real possibility, is taking Viagra worth the risk?

What’s the Evidence?

In 2014, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that men using Viagra had a much higher likelihood of developing melanoma compared to men who weren’t using the drug. Of the 26,000 male participants in the 10-year study, Viagra users developed melanoma at a rate 84 percent greater than the men who didn’t. Men who had used Viagra but stopped were at approximately double the risk of developing the deadly form of skin cancer.

Critics downplayed the results of the study, saying the findings proved a connection and not a causality. That is to say, men who took Viagra had a higher incidence rate of melanoma, but the E.D. medication might not have been the cause, the critics argued.

However, a recent study found that Viagra does in fact produce a biological effect wherein men became more susceptible to the spread of melanoma. According to the study, sildenafil (Viagra) stimulates a pathway (called cGMP) which makes melanoma spread more rapidly throughout the body. That means that men who develop melanoma and who also take Viagra are at a much greater risk of the cancer spiraling out of control.

Although melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer (comprising only 2 percent of skin cancer cases each year), it causes the majority of skin cancer deaths. An estimated 10,130 Americans die every year from this lethal type of skin cancer.

Pfizer Under Attack

In 1998, the FDA approved Viagra for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Since then, the drug has been a cash cow for Pfizer, the drug’s maker. In 2012, Viagra’s annual revenue peaked at an astonishing $2.05 Billion. Pfizer reported revenue exceeding $50 Billion in 2015, making it the 4th largest pharmaceutical company in the world.

Despite the drug’s popularity, Pfizer is facing an increasing number of lawsuits by men who claim that Viagra caused them to develop skin cancer. The lawsuits, filed in state and federal courts across the country, accuse Pfizer of failing to warn Viagra users and healthcare providers about the increased risk of melanoma linked to use of the drug. To promote efficiency in the litigation, a federal panel recently agreed to consolidate the mounting federal Viagra cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceeding before one judge in the Northern District of California.

The Business Model behind the Billions in Erectile Dysfunction

Scientific evidence has proven that Viagra is dangerous. So why do men take it?

Michael Kehler, a masculinities scholar and professor at the University of Western Ontario, says that societal pressures make men feel they “need to perform” and as a result turn to Viagra. According to Kehler, men are taught by society that the only way they can prove their masculinity is through continuous sexual performance. Thus, they are willing to accept the risks associated with Viagra in order to remain “virile” and “masculine.” Says Kehler:

“Risky behavior to ‘prove’ masculinity is often connected to the need to convince others of sexual prowess, of toughness, of virility, and, moreover, it is done to gain respect, to maintain or assert oneself among boys and men as ‘real men’.”

Of course, another explanation as to why men expose themselves to risk by taking Viagra is that they simply aren’t aware of the dangers. And unless they are constantly glued to the legal news circuit, how would they know when there is no warning? The seductive woman lying across a bed in the TV commercial tells her mostly male viewers that “curling up in bed with a favorite book is nice, but [she thinks] most women would rather curl up with their favorite man.” This same woman mentions nothing about Viagra giving men a highly lethal form of skin cancer.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: March 9, 2020