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Epilepsy does not appear to increase cancer risk
by: David Douglas

The results of a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry suggest that epilepsy is not associated with an increased risk of cancer.

"Epilepsy and long-term use of anti-epileptic drugs have been suggested to be associated with an increased risk of cancer," Dr. Cecilia Adelow of the Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, and colleagues write.

In a case-control study, the researchers identified 52,861 incident cases of leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and pancreatic cancer in the Swedish Cancer Registry from 1987 to 1999. A total of 137,485 controls were randomly selected from the Swedish Population Registry and were stratified by age, sex, and year of cancer diagnosis. The team linked cases and controls to the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry from 1969 to 1999 to identify patients with a diagnosis of epilepsy.

An epilepsy diagnosis in the same year as a cancer diagnosis was associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia and pancreatic cancer.

A diagnosis of epilepsy 2 years or more before a cancer diagnosis was not associated with an increased risk of any types of cancer studied. This lack of association was also seen when an epilepsy diagnosis preceded a cancer diagnosis by more than 10 years.

"Although we have studied the association between a prior diagnosis of epilepsy and the risk of cancer, our negative findings also suggest that there is no major increase in risk with long-term use of...antiepileptic drugs regarding the types of cancer studied," Dr. Adelow's team writes

. The researchers suggest that complete clinical examinations that were probably conducted after seizure onset most likely explain the relationship between epilepsy and cancers diagnosed in the same year.

While no evidence was found that epilepsy increases the risk of cancer, the investigators recommend that additional studies be performed to confirm these results.

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