Thursday, December 3, 2015

Antidepressants Do Not Increase Breast Cancer Recurrence in Women Taking Tamoxifen

Women taking tamoxifen to reduce their risk of breast cancer recurrence also frequently take antidepressants to help counter tamoxifen’s side effects, which include hot flashes, night sweats, and depression. However, some previous studies have suggested antidepressants may reduce the effectiveness of tamoxifen, thus raising the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

A new assessment of the medical records of nearly 17,000 breast cancer survivors published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests there is no increased risk of subsequent breast cancer in women who concurrently took tamoxifen and antidepressants.

The study examined 16,887 women in California who were diagnosed with breast cancer from 1996 to 2007 and treated with tamoxifen (all women were insured by Kaiser Permanente Southern California, who conducted this study). Of this group, 8,809 also took antidepressants, including paroxetine, fluoxetine, and tricyclics. The participants were stratified based on the degree of overlap in days taking tamoxifen and antidepressants.

Over the course of the study, 2,946 women developed breast cancer. The study authors found no statistically significant difference in breast cancer recurrence in women taking tamoxifen only and those also taking antidepressants—even in women who had a 75% or greater overlap in days taking both medications.

“Given that thousands of breast-cancer survivors struggle with depression, sleep disturbances, and other side effects while on tamoxifen, our study should help alleviate any concerns physicians have about prescribing antidepressants to their breast-cancer patients to help improve their quality of life,” said lead author Reina Haque, Ph.D., M.P.H., a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, in a press statement.

To read more about treating depression in patients with cancer, see the Psychiatric News article by Jesse Fann, M.D., M.P.H., titled “Integrated Psychosocial Care for Cancer Patients.”

(Image: Image Point Fr/Shutterstock)


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