Groundbreaking Study by Former Zuckerman PD Scholar Avital Fischer Links Antidepressant Use to Rise in Breast Cancer Deaths
A research study led by Zuckerman STEM Postdoctoral Scholar Avital Fischer found that anti-depressant usage before and after a breast cancer diagnosis is associated with an increase in mortality. The study, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors associated with increased mortality risk in breast cancer patients in Northern Israel, was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Oxford University Press. Avital Fischer, Hedy S Rennert, Gad Rennert
The use of selective SSRIs to treat anxiety and depression is ubiquitous among women, and breast cancer patients in particular. Dr. Fischer began studying the effects of stress on breast cancer as Zuckerman STEM Postdoctoral Scholar (2019-2020) at Haifa’s Carmel Hospital and the Technion, where she had access to the largest population-based cancer registries in Israel. She investigated how commonly used anti-depressants, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), influenced overall mortality among women diagnosed with breast cancer, and who are prescribed to treat anxiety and depression.
Breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer and leading cancer-related cause of death among women worldwide. Jewish women in Israel have one of the highest breast cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world. An estimated 50% of breast cancer patients suffer from depression or anxiety. Up to one-third of women will use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most commonly prescribed medication for anxiety and depression, after their breast cancer diagnosis. Approximately 12.7% of the US population had been prescribed an antidepressant in the past month, with women being twice as likely to be on an antidepressant than men. It is thus especially important to understand how SSRIs influence the risk and progression of breast cancer.