Too Much Tylenol May be Linked to Blood Cancers

If you take <"">Tylenol or another <"">acetaminophen product on a regular basis, you’ll want to know about this new study. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that chronic use of acetaminophen may put users at an increased risk for developing certain blood cancers.

In this study, chronic users were those who took acetaminophen at least four days a week over four years. The research team looked at data on 64,839 men and women aged 50 to 76, who took part in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study. Among these individuals, the researchers identified 577 cases of blood cancers.

Compared to users of aspirin, other NSAIDs or ibuprofen, those who were chronic acetaminophen users had a twofold increased risk for some blood cancers, including myeloid neoplasms, non-Hodgkin lymphomas and plasma cell disorders. At the same time, however, this group did not face an increased risk of chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma.

“A person who is age 50 or older has about a one-percent risk in ten years of getting one of these cancers,” one of the study authors, Emily White of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told Reuters. “Our study suggests that if you use acetaminophen at least four times a week for at least four years that would increase the risk to about two percent.”

However, White was also quick to note that the study was not conclusive proof that heavy acetaminophen use caused these blood cancers. The results need to be confirmed by further research, she said.

Acetaminophen, especially in the form of Tylenol, has been a ubiquitous presence in many U.S. homes for over 50 years. Because of their familiarity with it, many consumers aren’t aware that Tylenol and other forms of acetaminophen carry a risk of significant health affects. For example, acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage if too much is taken. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, acetaminophen overdose resulted in more than 40,000 calls to poison control centers in 2009, and such overdoses are among leading causes of acute liver failure.

The current recommended maximum daily dose on labels of acetaminophen is 4,000 mg (what is found in eight typical extra-strength pills). Many acetaminophen injuries occur because a person is taking two acetaminophen products at one time, and this can exceed the recommended daily limit. Many patients may not know that the prescription painkiller they’re taking contains acetaminophen and often they aren’t warned to avoid other acetaminophen-containing products.

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