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Some antidepressants could cut cancer risk

25th August 2011

New research has highlighted how a type of drug that treats depression and migraines could also reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

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Researchers from Lincoln University found that tricyclic drugs can cut the risk of bowel cancer by up to 21%.

The drugs, which account for almost a third of all prescriptions for antidepressants, could also help reduce the chance of developing the cancerous tumour glioma in the brain or spine by up to 64%.

The finding have been published in the British Journal of Cancer and is by experts at the universities of Lincoln, Warwick and Nottingham.

Dr Tim Bates from Lincoln University acknowledged that side-effects from tricyclic drugs meant they were not suitable for prescribing to everyone and were being replaced with newer drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that tend to be easier to go on and come off.

However, he suggested that patients at higher risk of specific cancers could be picked up through DNA screening and possibly given the drugs.

Figures show that in the UK, 40,000 people a year develop bowel cancer, while 4,800 people are diagnosed with a glioma.

For the study, the team used GP records and identified just under 32,000 cases to focus on and found that people taking tricyclic antidepressants had a much lower risk of glioma and a lower risk of bowel cancer, though other cancers such as lung, breast and prostate cancer were largely unaffected by the drug.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council.

 

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