Common drug increases risk of deadly breast cancer
There is now evidence that antidepressants—one of the most common types of prescription drugs—may contribute to one of women’s greatest worries. Yes, I’m talking about breast cancer.
Breast cancer affects one in eight women, and unfortunately, depression is also very common in women—in fact, twice as prevalent as in men.1 And since mainstream medicine has so little else to offer, nearly one out of four women in their 40s and 50s are prescribed dangerous antidepressant drugs2—just at the age when their risk of breast cancer begins to climb.
You see, about 70 percent of breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen, meaning that the hormone helps them increase in size.3 Recently, researchers have found that the SSRI antidepressant paroxetine (commonly marketed as Paxil) has an estrogen-like effect in the body, promoting the growth of breast tumors.4
Despite this evidence, last year the FDA approved paroxetine for the treatment of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.5 Amazingly, the FDA’s own Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Panel voted 10 to 4 against approval. You read that right—despite an overwhelming rejection by scientific experts, the FDA government bureaucrats went ahead anyway and gave paroxetine the thumbs up for menopause symptoms.
The advisory panel voted against approval because of the severe side effects associated with SSRIs, and only minor benefits (more on this in just a moment). It also cited these drugs as highly addictive.
It is one thing to wait two to three weeks for SSRIs to take effect, but then there is no reasonable strategy for ever getting off them. Sounds like the perfect drug, right? At least for big pharma.
The FDA trumpeted its decision to approve paroxetine, marketed under the name Brisdelle, for menopausal symptoms as a “non-hormonal, non-estrogen alternative.” The idea is that since estrogen-like hormone treatments for menopause cause breast cancer, Brisdelle can be given to lower the risk of getting breast cancer. Too bad Brisdelle acts like estrogen and promotes breast cancer anyway! The truth about Brisdelle can be found in just four of its letters: s-e-l-l.
But the FDA also apparently ignored testimony citing another serious risk associated with antidepressants like Brisdelle/Paxil…
More harm than good
Sadly, research shows that antidepressants potentially benefit only about one in seven people with depression.7 And doctors have no idea how to screen patients to determine in advance those few who might really benefit. So they just prescribe different antidepressants using the trial and error approach.
But unfortunately for women, your doctor’s error is potentially your breast cancer…or even your suicide.
That’s right—scientific evidence shows these drugs can lead to suicidal behavior in menopausal women.
“The data clearly show that the women taking paroxetine were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors than the women taking placebo. This was true even on the small dose of 7.5 mg,” said Mary Carol Jennings, MD, of the National Research Center for Women & Families, in FDA testimony. “The CDC tells us that women between the ages of 45-54 have the highest rates of suicide in the country. That is the same age group most likely to take a drug for hot flashes.”6
In my former forensic medical practice, I personally investigated several cases of suicide in depressed people who were living, working, and somehow getting along okay. Until they went to a psychiatrist and were “helped” by being prescribed SSRI antidepressants. Then they suddenly committed suicide.
Of course, that’s not the case with everyone. Some women do benefit from antidepressants. But why take the risk when there’s a safe, effective, natural alternative?
The perfect non-drug solution for depression and breast cancer prevention
There’s compelling recent evidence that vitamin D can help fight depression and breast cancer in older women. In fact, if mainstream doctors were not so focused on drugs, they might actually see that vitamin D—rather than antidepressants—makes a strong case for being the “magic bullet” for women.
One new study of nearly 82,000 women ages 50-79 found that women who consumed 800 IU daily of vitamin D—primarily from food sources like meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs—were 20 percent less likely to become depressed over a three-year period than the women who got just trace amounts of the vitamin.7
Another new research review looked at the results of 25 separate studies that measured vitamin D levels in 17,332 people at the time of their cancer diagnosis. Higher vitamin D levels were linked to significantly better survival rates for people with breast or colon cancer or lymphoma. There was also a positive effect for lung, stomach, prostate, and melanoma skin cancers, as well as leukemia.
In addition, back in May I sent out a Daily Dispatch about a recent study that showed that women with breast cancer who had higher vitamin D levels had double the survival rate of women with lower levels.
It’s important to note that all of these studies were in populations where the “high” vitamin D group of women actually just had “sufficient” levels of the vitamin. Imagine if all women were at the truly optimal levels shown by research to be most beneficial to their health?
I recommend a dose of 5,000 IU per day of vitamin D for all women. For those who don’t want to add more pills and capsules to their daily routine, vitamin D is available in potent, liquid forms that can be conveniently added to low-fat milk or juice—or taken directly, as the dosage is usually just a few drops, depending on the product.
1 World Health Organization. Gender and Women’s Mental Health. http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/. Accessed June 15, 2014.
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antidepressant Use in Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2005–2008. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db76.htm. Accessed June 15, 2014.
3 Berger CE, et al. p53, a target of estrogen receptor (ER) α, modulates DNA damage-induced growth suppression in ER-positive breast cancer cells.J Biol Chem. 2012 Aug 31;287(36):30117-27. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.367326. Epub 2012 Jul 11.
4 Chen S, et al. AroER tri-screen is a biologically relevant assay for endocrine disrupting chemicals modulating the activity of aromatase and/or the estrogen receptor. Toxicol Sci. 2014 May;139(1):198-209. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfu023. Epub 2014 Feb 4.
5 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves the first non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes associated with menopause. http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm359030.htm. Accessed June 15, 2014.
6National Center for Health Research. Testimony of Dr. Mary Carol Jennings on Paroxetine (Brisdelle). http://center4research.org/public-policy/testimony-briefings-statements/jennings-testimony-paroxetine/. Accessed June 15, 2014.
7Millen AE, et al. Vitamin D intake from foods and supplements and depressive symptoms in a diverse population of older women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;94(4):1104-12. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.017384. Epub 2011 Aug 24.
8 Mian L, et al. Review: The Impacts of Circulating 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels on Cancer Patient Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-4320