Antidepressants—a Cure for Cancer?

Nobody likes the thought of having to take antidepressants, but apart from helping to alleviate severe depression, recent studies have given users of antidepressants something to smile about at last. Preliminary laboratory studies at the University of Birmingham Medical School have noted that more than 50% of lymphomas (cancers of the white blood cells) have responded favorably to the use of antidepressant medication.

With millions of people around the world taking antidepressants, and the World Health Organization predicting that depression will become the world’s most diagnosed disease after heart disease within the next 20 years, this finding represents a beacon of hope for many sufferers of this often-crippling disease.

This discovery has enormous health ramifications for both the individual and the community alike. Common antidepressant drugs like Prozac and Effexor have the potential to destroy cancer cells with minimal side effects, and it is hoped that human trials with these medications will replicate what has been noted in the laboratory. If so, not only will the rate of cancer be reduced via the use of antidepressants in depressed individuals, but the savings to the community in terms of health costs will also be beneficial.

Unfortunately, many people with depression go on to develop cancer because, as a group, they are more likely to indulge in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, illegal drug taking, and poor dietary habits.

Depression also causes changes in immunity levels and depressed individuals are more likely to suffer from colds and other infections, and their T-cell count is often low, exposing them to abnormal cell changes which can lead to cancer.

This is encouraging news for people who are required to take antidepressants for their condition, and researchers hope that this breakthrough will also encourage people to stick with their antidepressant medication regime for beneficial periods of time. Just as people suffering from diabetes and heart disease are required to take medication, in circumstances where antidepressants are the preferred option to other therapies, at least sufferers can be comforted by the knowledge that their risk of contracting cancer associated with a lowered immune response is minimized.

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