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Concerns Mount over Paxil Side Effects

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Boston, MANo fewer than 27 million Americans take antidepressants, easily the third most-prescribed class of drugs in the country behind cholesterol busters and painkillers. Now, peer-reviewed research published last month in PloS ONE suggests that female users of antidepressants such as Paxil face an 11 percent greater risk of cancer than individuals who do not use antidepressants at all. Besides a suggested cancer risk, Paxil paroxetine is associated with various Paxil side effects.

According to an April 8 report in the Boston Globe, Harvard Research Fellow Lisa Cosgrove and her team conducted a meta analysis of 26 epidemiological and 35 preclinical studies dating all the way back to 1965. Of those studies analyzed—the most recent of which was completed last year—20 identified a link. What's more, the cancer risk was most prevalent amongst selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), a class of drugs that includes Paxil.

The type of cancer identified was breast and ovarian cancer. This only adds to previous concerns with regard to Paxil birth defects allegedly affecting some infants after their mothers continued to take Paxil during the first trimester. Doctors have long since decreed that in a perfect world, women would stop taking Paxil or any other SSRI drug prior to conception and for the duration of the pregnancy, then re-initiate Paxil afterwards.

However, stopping an antidepressant such as Paxil following years of treatment is no easy task. What's more, doctors are concerned about the potential untreated depression can have on the developing fetus in the womb, a subject recently broached within an expert health column posted online at CNN.com April 19.

The cancer risk only adds to an already complicated debate on the issue of antidepressants, adding weight to a strategy of alternative treatments, according to Cosgrove. "I would want to consider nondrug treatment if I was mildly depressed, given our data," Cosgrove said, in comments originally reported April 8 by Bloomberg News.

"Reviewing the evidence is a critical public health issue in light of the increasing prevalence of antidepressant use, especially among women, and in light of the fact that one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer of the breast during their lifetime," the investigators said in the report.

One of the studies analyzed by Cosgrove and her team was originally published in 2000 by Dr. Michelle Cotterchio at the University of Toronto. In that study, among other findings, women who took Paxil exhibited a sevenfold increase in cancer risk.

Many Paxil users experiencing Paxil defects, including Paxil heart defects, have launched a Paxil lawsuit in an effort to pursue compensation. Lisa Cosgrove is a research lab fellow at Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

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