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False Alarm: Study Doesn't Link Prozac to Cancer


There definitely is no proof that antidepressants cause cancer. This doesn't mean that there might not be a link, says cancer researcher Lorne J. Brandes, MD. Brandes is professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Brandes says he conducted studies in which antidepressants, including Prozac, sped the growth of malignant tumors in mice. He's recently reviewed the medical literature on the topic. Several studies link antidepressants to breast and ovarian cancer; other studies show no link.

"We all know depression is a very serious disease and antidepressants help a lot of people," Brandes tells WebMD. "The question is whether any of these drugs have an unintentional effect on cancer. There are all these things that keep coming up and popping up in the medical journals. I think there is something to this whole story."

Brandes says he finds it ironic that it is the Gordon study, which had nothing to do with actual use of antidepressants, that has created such a stir.

Gordon, too, says he finds it ironic -- especially since he sees his work as an important step toward new treatments for cancer.

"I've been in this game 25 years, and we feel this is the most exciting finding we have had in terms of hopefully developing a cancer therapy somewhere down the line," he says.

All of the experts who spoke to WebMD urge people taking antidepressants to keep taking their medications. All agree that while cancer risk remains theoretical, the dangers of depression are very real. They say that people who are worried about possible side effects from long-term use of these medicines should discuss the issue with their doctors.

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