Use of painkillers may triple kidney cancer risk

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2011, 17:28 PM IST

London: People who take non-aspirin anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen for over a decade may triple their risk of developing kidney cancer, a new study has found.

The study of over 125,000 participants, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found that people who regularly took over-the-counter anti-inflammatories were 51 per cent more likely to develop the disease.

But, they found that people who used them for over a decade, such as arthritis sufferers, were almost three times more likely to suffer renal cell cancer (RCC), the most common
form of kidney cancer, the Daily Mail reported.

Aspirin was the only member among the group of drugs -- known as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)—that was found to be safe.

Dr Eunyoung Cho, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues said: "In these large prospective studies of women and men, we found that use of non-aspirin NSAIDs was associated with an elevated risk of renal cell cancer, especially among those who took them for a long duration."

Renal cancer accounts for two per cent of all cancers diagnosed in the UK. It is difficult to treat with around one in three surviving the disease.

Pain-relieving medications, or analgesics, are among the most commonly used groups of drugs and some appear to have protective effects against cancer, the researchers found.
"However some epidemiologic data, mainly from case-control studies, suggest an association between analgesic use and an increased risk of RCC," they said.

So, Dr Cho and colleagues analysed data on 77,525 women and 49,403 men whose use of aspirin and other NSAIDs was recorded for up to 20 years during which time 333 developed renal cell cancer.

They found that those who took non-aspirin NSAIDs daily for four to nine years had a 36 per cent higher risk of kidney cancer compared to non-regular users, and the risk rose by 300 per cent among those who took the drugs for over 10 years.

In carrying out the study the researchers also took into account other risk factors for RCC such as body weight, smoking, recreational physical activity and history of high
blood pressure.

NSAIDs are also taken by sufferers of bowel conditions such as Crohn`s Disease, and as a preventive measure against Alzheimer`s Disease.

The researchers said: "Risks and benefits should be considered in deciding whether to use analgesics; if our findings are confirmed, an increased risk of RCC should also
be considered."

The overall risk of renal cell cancer remains small in comparison to that of other major diseases. Only six per 100,000 people are expected to develop the condition compared
to 95 per 100,000 for Alzheimer`s.