Posted on Fri, Mar. 18, 2005
Small study ties Ritalin to risk of cancer; more research urged...
By Paul Wenske
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE
Health experts say the first human study linking Ritalin - the most popular drug for attention-deficit problems - to a higher risk of cancer is raising alarms.
But they caution that more and larger studies should be conducted before pediatricians and therapists curtail prescribing Ritalin for the millions of children and adults in the United States who have benefited from its use for more than 50 years.
In a study to be published in Cancer Letters, Texas researchers found that after only three months, each of a dozen children treated with Ritalin had a threefold increase in chromosome abnormalities associated with increased risks of cancer.
"This study doesn't mean that these kids are going to get cancer, but it does mean they are exposed to an additional risk factor, assuming this study holds up," said Marvin Legator, an environmental toxicologist and principal investigator on the study based at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Legator acknowledged this week that the study group was small. But he said it was the first such study involving results in humans. "This should raise a red flag," Legator said. "There's no question we need a bigger study before we take any further major action."
All 12 children showed chromosomal breaks that are associated with an increased risk of cancer.