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Commonly Used Pain Pills Increase Kidney Cancer Risk in Study

Pain medicines routinely taken by millions of people to ease headaches and joint pain may also increase the risk of kidney cancer, researchers said.

People who regularly used ibuprofen, sold by Johnson & Johnson as Motrin and Pfizer Inc. as Advil, or naproxen, sold by Bayer AG as Aleve, were 51 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer than those who didn’t rely on the pills, according to a study published today in Archives of Internal Medicine. There wasn’t an increased risk from aspirin or acetaminophen, the main ingredient in J&J’s Tylenol.

The findings run counter to earlier studies that suggested ibuprofen and naproxen could reduce the risk of more common tumors, including breast, prostate and colon cancer, said lead researcher Eunyoung Cho, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Additional research is needed to confirm the risk, she said in a telephone interview.

“It’s something people need to keep in mind, that this may increase the risk of certain cancers,” Cho said. “If our study is confirmed, the risks and benefits should be considered in trying to decide whether to use analgesics, especially for long durations.”

The researchers analyzed the medical records of 126,928 volunteers taking part in the Nurses’ Health Study or the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. There were 333 cases of renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.

The risk rose the longer the study participants took the pain medications, with a 19 percent drop in danger for those using them for less than four years and a three-fold higher risk for people who took the pills for a decade or more.

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