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Is There a Link Between SSRIs and Ovarian Cancer? An Editorial

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are excellent drugs and give hope to many people with a wide variety of mental health disorders. However, a recent study from Boston suggested that there is a link between ovarian cancer and use of these medications.

The research was done by Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, from Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University in Boston, Mass., who used meta analysis to look at 61 studies. In their study, Cosgrove and her colleagues observed that there was a small but significant increase in risk of ovarian cancer in women who took SSRIs. The study provided a hint that perhaps the SSRIs were acting either as a tumor promoter or a cancer-causing agent.

The researchers observed that depressed women who were on SSRIs were slightly more likely to have developed some type of gynecological cancer. Another interesting finding, which has also been in the news lately, is that when doctors and researchers were affiliated with the pharmaceutical companies, the results were less likely to show any such correlation. (1) Whereas when doctors without affiliations evaluated the data, the correlation was more obvious between the drugs and cancer. However, it should be mentioned that one of the largest epidemiological studies (Dalton et al, Epidemiology. 2000;11:171-176) involving more than 39,000 people did not show any association between anti- depressant use and cancer.

Dr Jennifer Payne, MD, Director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD., believes that publishing such data may have a negative effect on women who have depression, who may choose not to seek any anti-depressant therapy. So for now the issue of whether the SSRI increase risk of cancer is still a mystery. The question remains, whom does one believe?

There is no question, in my opinion, that doctors associated with pharmaceutical companies tend to minimize complications or tend not to report adverse side effects of drugs.

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