At this point in time, the clearest answer to the question of whether Xanax causes cancer is that we don’t fully know. For individuals who take Xanax and other benzodiazepine drugs for anxiety and panic disorders, even the slightest chance that Xanax can cause or facilitate any type of cancer may dissuade them from use.
Can Xanax Cause Cancer?
Although there is no defined answer as to whether Xanax specifically causes cancer, studies have been conducted suggesting a relationship between benzodiazepine use and certain forms of cancer.
A longitudinal population-based case-control study was conducted that pulled 12 years of data from a Taiwan National Health Insurance database. This investigation looked for links between the use of benzodiazepines and the risk of cancer among individuals ages 20 years and up.
This study found that 42,500 cases diagnosed with cancer were identified and analyzed for benzodiazepine use. Outcomes were observed according to an individual’s length of exposure as well as their defined daily dose. Cancer risk among benzodiazepine users was found to be significantly higher — 98 percent higher for brain cancer, 25 percent higher for colorectal cancer, and 10 percent higher for lung cancer — compared to those who did not use benzodiazepines.
When it comes to cancer, not all benzodiazepine drugs are created equal. Long-term use of these commonly prescribed benzodiazepines have been observed to potentially have a link with cancer:
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
Additional Studies Linking Xanax Use & Cancer
A meta-analysis performed in 2020 investigated the association of hypnotics such as Xanax and their potential link to certain forms of cancer.
The meta-analysis did in fact reveal a correlation between hypnotic use and increased risk of cancer. The study asserted that lower-dose hypnotics that are shorter in duration had less of an association with increased cancer risk. Benzodiazepines with an anxiolytic effect were shown to have a lower cancer risk than sedatives, but Xanax is a sedative.
In an overall sense, this meta-analysis found that the risk of cancer was greater in hypnotics drug users than nonusers in the 27 studies that were pooled.
The study also asserts that randomized control trials are necessary to provide any sort of confirmation on whether there is a definitive link between Xanax use and the development of cancer.
Types of Cancers Linked to Benzodiazepine Use
Studies mentioned above assert that benzodiazepine exposure increased the likelihood of the development of the following types of cancers:
These studies did not suggest an association between benzo use and ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or malignant melanoma.
The International Journal of Cancer released a study that sheds additional light on which specific types of cancer Xanax and other benzodiazepines may have a relation to. This study suggests that benzodiazepine use increased the risk of cancers mentioned previously in addition to breast cancer, renal cell cancer, and stomach cancer.
Can Long-Term Use of Xanax Increase Your Cancer Risk?
There are certain variables that may or may not influence previous findings showing a link between long-term Xanax use and cancer. For instance, these studies and their associated results may have been skewed by such variables as alcohol and tobacco use, which have been linked in a definitive sense to the development of certain types of cancer, especially in the stomach and lungs.
The use of substances such as alcohol and tobacco in conjunction with Xanax use still needs to be studied. Both alcohol and tobacco products are often used in combination with Xanax and other benzos when the substances are misused.
It’s important to also note that anxiety and insomnia have been shown to be linked to cancer. A high percentage of cancer patients suffer from anxiety disorders and depression.
Further research still needs to be conducted to provide definitive evidence of a connection between long-term Xanax use and the types of cancer it may or may not cause or help facilitate.
No matter the findings, it’s crucial to understand that Xanax is not intended for long-term use. There are additional proven negative side effects that come with long-term Xanax use, including physical and psychological dependence as well as addiction.
If you have used Xanax for a prolonged period of time, it’s important to get help stopping use. Do not attempt to stop taking Xanax or any benzodiazepine suddenly on your own. Consult a doctor, so you can safely and gradually wean off the medication.
- Is Long-Term Use of Benzodiazepine a Risk for Cancer? (February 2015). Medicine (Baltimore).
- Hypnotics and Risk of Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. (October 2020). Medicina.
- Use of Benzodiazepine and Risk of Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. (September 2016). International Journal of Cancer.
- Anxiety and Sleep Disorders in Cancer Patients. (September 2013). EJC Supplements.
- Experiences With Benzodiazepine Use, Tapering, and Discontinuation: An Internet Survey. (April 2022). Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.
- Tapering Off Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use With or Without Group Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: Three-Condition, Randomised Controlled Trial. (January 2018). The British Journal of Psychiatry.