Cancer: Prescription drug to help relieve acute pain could be increasing your risk


The consumption of opioids in chronic non- pain in many Western countries is alarmingly high. In Europe and the USA, both opioid use and abuse have increased markedly during the last 30 years, indicating an association between medical use and abuse of opioids. Even more worrying is the possible link between opioid use and a higher cancer association risk.

In a study published in Annals of Oncology, the role of opioids in cancer progression was investigated.

The study noted: “Associated with the widespread use of opioids from many different settings, an increasing number of long-term consequences have been reported including addiction, opioid tolerance, hyperalgesia, hypogonadism, sexual dysfunction and recently immunosuppression.

“Thus, opioids—especially morphine—inhibit cell-mediated immunity, which is the principal defence against cancer.

“In vitro studies indicate that opioids induce tumour growth by promoting angiogenesis, cell cycle progression, migration and metastasis.

“Weak clinical evidence indicates that opioids may play a role in the progression of existing tumours.

“However, these hypothetical findings are preliminary and need to be confirmed in later studies.”

READ MORE: Cancer symptoms: The ‘persistent’ warning sign when waking up in the morning – pharmacist

The use of prescription opioids for the management of chronic pain has increased remarkably.

Addiction rates among patients who are given opioids for chronic pain have also increased, with 29 percent of such patients misusing opioids and 12 percent developing an opioid use disorder, according to a study published in the journal Pain.

A population-based cohort of 13 127 adults followed up to 11 years, aimed at investigating the risk of death among opioid users.

The risk of all-cause mortality was significantly higher among long-term opioid users, but long-term use of opioids did not seem to increase the risk of developing cancer.


Eytan Alexander, the managing director of the drug addiction firm Ukat said: “Finally, it is written in black and white the dangers and addictive nature that prescribing opioids and other ‘pain relief’ drugs can have on patients.

“Unfortunately, the general consensus for a long time has been that this isn’t a real addiction, but trust us, it is. Prescription drug addiction is as real as heroin addiction but, in this case, the addict gets their drugs from their GP rather than a dealer.

“We’re pleased to hear that today the advice is this should no longer be an option.”

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