A recent article suggests that antidepressants (especially SSRIs like Prozac, Lexapro and Zoloft) may increase risk for breast and ovarian cancer. This risk seems to be more of a concern with short-term and/or low dose SSRI use. This is a significant finding and raises some questions that need to be researched such as, is it the medication or the depression that is increasing cancer risk?
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, this finding was not supported by researchers with financial ties to drug companies. In fact, industry funded studies found an anti-cancer effect of anti-depressants. This is a public health concern. Prescribing practices of physicians are based on research findings- many of which have financial ties to drugs. An example, as mentioned in the article, was with a re-evaluation of liver tissue of rats exposed to dioxin and how it resulted in a different conclusion about the liver cancer rates; “industry sponsored reevaluations were associated with fewer cancers”. It was this industry funded finding which had an effect on policy recommendations.
I believe it is always good to know the pros and cons (and even potential cons) of taking a medication, like an anti-depressant, and weighing that against the benefits of taking the medications. It is also important that we ask the question, “Who funded this study?” when we evaluate research or hear of research findings on the news that affect medication prescribing practices.