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Project Inform
Anti-Depressants Not Linked to Possibly Increasing the Risk of Cancer

By Alan McCord

August 6, 2008

Some studies have suggested a possible link between using some types of anti-depressant medications to a heightened risk of cancer. There is also evidence that certain anti-depressants might lower the risk of some cancers. Understanding the possible link between anti-depressants and cancer is particularly important for people wit HIV, because they experience higher rates of cancer than the general population, and they have a high rate of anti-depressant use.

In an abstract presented at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, antidepressants were found to not increase this risk. This large study followed 10,997 individuals at an HIV center both before and during the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). A total of 2,004 were prescribed anti-depressants while 1,607 individuals were diagnosed with cancer during the time covered by this study. It examined the changes in the incidence of cancers based on how long they were taking antidepressants.

An analysis was performed to establish the risk of both AIDS and non-AIDS cancers. This was done for each of the different classes of anti-depressants: SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), TCAs (tricyclic anti-depressants), and other drugs for depression. The study examined data from the time that the individuals were exposed to antidepressants, before and during the era of HAART.

The results showed that there were no significant connections between any class of anti-depressant and any type of cancer, which included SSRIs not altering the risk of Burkitt's lymphoma. This held true for individuals both before and during HAART. Thankfully, due to the number of prescriptions that are currently written, anti-depressants do not affect cancer risk in people living with HIV.

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