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Pain Management Health Center

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Long-Term Painkiller Use Linked to Kidney Cancer

Study Suggests Increased Risk of Kidney Cancer for Users of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Measuring Risk of Long-Term Use continued...

Those who took non-aspirin NSAIDs regularly for four to nine years had a 36% higher risk of kidney cancer compared to non-regular users. However, Cho says that that finding may have been due to chance. The only group at notable risk was made up of people taking them for more than 10 years. Their risk increased by nearly 300%.

"Not a large amount of people take them for that long," says Cho. "Short-term use is much more common."

Drug Industry Reaction

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), an industry group that represents over-the-counter drug manufacturers, says this class of drugs is both safe and effective when taken according to the label.

"The results of this study reinforce our guidance to consumers that long-term use beyond labeled directions should only be undertaken after consultation with a doctor, who can appropriately evaluate benefits/risks and monitor therapy closely," the CHPA says in a statement provided to WebMD.

For women, the more often they took them during a given month, the higher the risk. There was an 8% increase among women who took them up to four times a month. The increased risk to women who took them more than 15 days per month went up 86%. Dosage data was not available for male participants.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 60,920 new cases of kidney cancer will occur this year and will kill more than 13,000 people. Renal cell cancer, the type that Cho and her team studied, accounts for about 85% of all kidney cancers, which are often treatable if caught early.

While cancer of the kidneys is twice as common in men as it is in women, Cho's study found that both men and women were almost equally likely to develop the disease as a result of taking non-aspirin NSAIDs.

"Because we observed the association in two independent populations, it is unlikely to be a chance finding," the researchers write.

This study points out that previous research has linked non-aspirin NSAIDs with reduced risks of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers, while others have reported NSAIDs in general to be associated with both acute and chronic kidney problems.

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