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Dr. Roach: Amlodipine not associated with BP medicine recalls

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I keep hearing that amlodipine, my blood pressure medicine, has a cancer-causing agent in it. I had ovarian cancer surgery in 2010. So far, my doctors say I am doing well. I am very concerned the amlodipine might be to blame.

— M.H.

Dear M.H.: I do not find any literature showing a significant association of amlodipine (Norvasc and others) with ovarian cancer. There was a study showing an association with some older beta blockers, but the type of study that showed this cannot prove that the beta blockers really do increase the risk of ovarian cancer, and I wouldn't recommend stopping them without a discussion with your doctor.

A different class of blood pressure drugs, the angiotensin receptor blockers, have been in the news a lot recently with a potentially cancer-causing contaminant resulting in many lots being recalled. The level of risk with this contaminant was thought to be small. I have not seen amlodipine identified as contaminated, but a combination amlodipine/ARB was recalled.

Most cases of cancer have no identifiable risk associated. Cancer just happens sometimes.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 91-year-old man in good health. I eat a 6-ounce container of low-fat yogurt each day, since I heard it was good for my gut bacteria. But I don't know if this is true or not. I may be wasting my time and money. It comes in several flavors, and I enjoy the taste. Please let me know your thoughts on yogurt.

— H.H.

Dear H.H.: Yogurt has two potential benefits: the bacteria and the calcium. Many, but not all, yogurts are made with live bacteria, and these can live in our intestines. It's not really clear what benefit they have for people who are healthy and have no symptoms. It's possible they might prevent problems later, but there is very little evidence for that. However, for people with intestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, the healthy bacteria in yogurt can improve symptoms. Yogurt is also a good source of calcium, and 91-year-old men and women should ensure adequate calcium, since osteoporosis is common in people of that age.

Some brands of flavored yogurts have a great deal of sugar. I recommend finding brands with less sugar, or buying plain yogurt and adding some fresh fruit yourself.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a senior in good health but when I have a bowel movement, stool comes through my vagina. This started a few months ago.

— B.D.

Dear B.D.: This is almost certainly a rectovaginal fistula, an abnormal connection between the colon and the vagina. These can be the result of diverticulitis inflamed outpouches of the colon -- and sometimes of severe constipation. However, it can also occur as a complication of colon cancer.

Because of your symptoms and because of the possibility of a more serious problem, this needs an evaluation. Start with a visit to a gynecologist, who will confirm the diagnosis with a physical exam. An evaluation of the colon may be indicated to make sure this is not colon cancer.

Treatment for rectovaginal fistula is surgical.

Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.