Q&A: Acetaminophen & Cancer

Q: Is it true that taking acetaminophen can cause cancer?

A: An article was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that cause quite a bit of excitement in the science world. The U.S. study that was outlined stated that taking, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter pain and cold remedies, for extended periods of time can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer of the blood.

Almost 65,000 men and women in Washington State who did not have a history of cancer were studied over a period of almost 6 years. Out of the people studied, 577 (about 1 percent) of the group developed a blood cancer.  

After considering other factors like age and family history, the researchers found that people who used acetaminophen on a consistent basis were almost twice a likely as non-users to develop blood cancer. Overall, the study seems to suggest that using acetaminophen at least four times a week for at least four years will increase a person’s risk of developing cancer by 2 percent.  

Because this study is the first of its kind, researchers are not issuing any recommendations on the use of acetaminophen. Side effects are possible with all medications, especially when used over long periods of time. It is important to talk about your medication use, both prescription and over-the-counter, with your healthcare team to make sure that it is right for you.

Q&A: Boniva

Q: What are some things that I need to know if I take Boniva?

A: Boniva is one of the newest drugs in a group of medications known as bisphosphonates. It is used to treat or prevent osteoporosis, or the loss of bone density, in women who no longer experience a menstrual cycle. Boniva works by changing how bones are formed and broken down in the body. It has the ability to slow bone loss and increase bone mass at the same time, which may help prevent bones from breaking.

Boniva should be taken first thing in the morning with a full glass of plain water at least an hour before you drink or eat anything else, including other medications. Because Boniva can cause acid reflux in your throat and esophagus, you should remain upright, whether sitting or standing, for that hour.  

Some patients may experience side effects when taking Boniva. If you experience any pain in your bones, muscles, joints, burning in your throat, or any other symptoms that do not seem normal, you should call your physician or pharmacist immediately for further guidance.