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February 23, 2014– Last month in the International Journal of General Medicine, scientists from laboratories at Pomona College in Claremont, CA and Imperial College in London, England published a wide-ranging study to test commonly used drugs and their ability to manage cancer pain. Cancer-related pain affects approximately 9 million people across the globe each year and ranges from chronic pain to depression.

The lab performed tests on various patients with kidney, prostate and breast cancer and measured the amount of pain associated with each of the drugs. Among all of the commonly used analgesics, or painkillers, aspirin was found to reduce pain and cancer occurrence while Tylenol was found to raise the risk of cancer.

The lab also studied drugs that act on GABA receptors. GABA is a chemical in the body that plays a role in brain development and acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in children and adults. Drugs that act as regulators of GABA receptors typically have relaxing effects and were therefore included in this study to test their ability to combat cancer pains. They concluded that these types of drugs were generally safe for patients, with only some potential cancer risks.

Another type of drug studied was barbiturates, which are known to bind to sites on GABA receptors but cause a conformation change within the receptors. Barbiturates were found to slightly raise cancer risks.

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