Paxil, Similar Antidepressants Linked to Breast Cancer

Breast cancer has been added to the list of possible list of side effects linked to some antidepressants, including <"">Paxil. According to, a Harvard University review suggests that a deeper look should be taken at the potential increased incidence of breast and ovarian cancers in women taking Paxil and other antidepressants.

The research reviewed 61 prior studies and found a link between Paxil and cancer risks, with an increased risk seen in 11 percent of patients taking the medications, said The data was just published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.

The research also found that 20 of the studies identified a link that was stronger in cases involving the very popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); 16 studies looked specifically at this drug class, which includes GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Paxil with 15 revealing higher cancer risks, reported

“Reviewing the evidence is a critical public health issue in light of the increasing prevalence of AD use, especially among women, and in light of the fact that one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer of the breast during their lifetime,” the investigators said in the report, quoted

Lisa Cosgrove, a research lab fellow at Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and associate professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was the study lead. Cosgrove said study results point to a need for increased reviews of SSRIs being used in women and cancer links. “I would want to consider nondrug treatment if I was mildly depressed, given our data,” Cosgrove said, quoted

Antidepressants, said, are used by 27 million Americans and are the third most-prescribed class of drug in the U.S. SSRIs raise serotonin levels in the brain, which has been linked to increased suicidal ideation and behaviors in children and teenagers; in 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated a black label warning, its strictest, on SSRI labels, explained. Eli Lilly & Co.’s Prozac, approved in 1987, was the first SSRI.

The meta-analysis did reveal another interesting link involving prior research. “The question is certainly open about the link between cancer and antidepressants, but we can say that researchers with industry ties are far less likely to publish studies that link a serious adverse effect to a popular drug class,” said Cosgrove, who has long criticized psychiatrist and drugmaker conflicts of interest, quoted As a matter-of-fact, Crosgrove led a study in 2006 that discovered that 56 percent of 170 doctors charged with revising the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—a long-respected tool that affects prescribing practices—had no less than one connection to industry, wrote also noted that an April 2 report on antidepressants presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans, found that antidepressants might be responsible for narrowing of arteries in middle-aged men, which could put them at increased risk for heart attacks and stroke.

We have long written about Paxil’s links to stroke, fertility issues, and birth defects and in 2009 we also wrote that a study then showed that use of some antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft, may interfere with the efficacy of tamoxifen, leading to recurrence of breast cancer. Tamoxifen is used to prevent the return of estrogen-dependent breast tumors. More than 500,000 women in the U.S. are taking tamoxifen and about 30 percent of those women are also prescribed antidepressants to treat hot flashes. According to, the FDA will not be updating the drug’s label to include SSRI interactions, said agency spokeswoman, Erica Jefferson.

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