Tamoxifen and Antidepressants: The New Findings

Breast cancer patients on tamoxifen may not risk recurrence while on antidepressants

(RxWiki News) Breast cancer survivors are often prescribed antidepressants to ward off hot flashes and other side effects of the cancer drug tamoxifen. But some experts worry that this practice may make tamoxifen less effective.

In spite of this worry, a new study found that women who took tamoxifen (brand names Soltamox and Nolvadex) in combination with an antidepressant did not have an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence.

"Given that thousands of breast-cancer survivors struggle with depression, sleep disturbance, 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 study author Reina Haque, PhD, MPH, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente, in a press release.

Side effects of tamoxifen can include severe hot flashes, night sweats and depression. To alleviate these symptoms, antidepressants are often prescribed. Currently, almost half of the 2.4 million breast cancer survivors in the US take antidepressants.

For this study, Dr. Haque and team looked at 16,887 early-stage breast cancer survivors treated with tamoxifen. Nearly half of these patients were also prescribed antidepressants.

These patients were then followed for a maximum of 14 years. During that time, 17.4 percent developed breast cancer again. About 15 percent experienced recurrence in the same breast, while 2.5 percent experienced recurrence in the opposite breast.

The risk of recurrence was found to be similar in women who took antidepressants and women who did not.

These researchers said that this finding held up regardless of the type of antidepressant used. This included paroxetine (Paxil), which had previously been thought to interfere with tamoxifen.

This study was published online Dec. 1 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The National Institutes of Health and the California Breast Cancer Research Program funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
December 2, 2015