AD/HD Drugs and Cancer

Researchers report that children taking methylphenidate showed an increase in chromosome abnormalities that are associated with cancer.

Wednesday June 1st - 3:00pm

Do stimulant medications raise children's risk for cancer? High doses of methylphenidate - a constituent of Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and other AD/HD drugs - have been linked to liver tumors in mice, but not in rats. Now, Texas researchers report that each of a dozen kids treated for three months for AD/HD showed increased levels of chromosome abnormalities that are associated with cancer.

"It was pretty surprising that all of the children taking methylphenidate showed an increase in chromosome abnormalities in a relatively short period of time," said study author Randa A. El-Zein, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. El-Zein stressed, however, that larger studies are needed to confirm his findings.

Co-author Matthew J. Hay, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas at Galveston, advised parents to respond cautiously to the news. "Twelve kids with one physician in one county is too small a sample to base a decision on," he said. "If my child were on the medication and doing well, I wouldn't take him off."

The study will be published in the journal Cancer Letters.

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