Thursday, December 13, 2012

Opioids and Cancer: Adding Risks to the List

As if we needed additional reasons to help injured workers avoid the detrimental effects of long term opioid use... we can now add cancer to the list.

A study published in the journal Anesthesiology and led by University of Chicago researcher Patrick Singleton has shown that opioids can enhance the malignant tendencies of cancer cells.  The study suggests that the same mu receptor cells that enable the powerful pain relieving effects of opioids are also present in cancer cells and, when opioids are present, can influence the progression and spread of cancer. 

Interestingly, this is good news in the oncology community.  The article states: "In a series of labortaory studies, Drs. Singleton and Moss found that drugs which blocked the mu opioid receptors reduced cancer growth in animals and helped prevent further invasion and spread of cancer cells.  Further, tumors did not grow in mice that lacked the mu opioid receptor."

Of course, I can't help but think about the inverse.  How many injured workers might (emphasis on might) experience more rapid cancer growth due to the abundance of opioids being taken? 

Granted, the studies thus far are all bench science - no human trials have been conducted.  But the body of evidence continues to grow regarding the dangers inherent in long term opioid use. 

On Twitter @PRIUM1

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