Controversy persists about whether certain antidepressants reduce tamoxifen's effectiveness on lowering breast cancer recurrence. We investigated whether taking tamoxifen and antidepressants (in particular, paroxetine) concomitantly is associated with an increased risk of recurrence or contralateral breast cancer.
We examined 16 887 breast cancer survivors (TNM stages 0-II) diagnosed between 1996 and 2007 and treated with tamoxifen in two California health plans. Women were followed-up through December 31, 2009, for subsequent breast cancer. The main exposure was the percent of days of overlap when both tamoxifen and an antidepressant (paroxetine, fluoxetine, other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclics, and other classes) were used. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using multivariable Cox regression models with time-varying medication variables.
Of the 16 887 women, half (n = 8099) used antidepressants and 2946 women developed subsequent breast cancer during the 14-year study period. We did not find a statistically significant increased risk of subsequent breast cancer in women who concurrently used paroxetine and tamoxifen. For 25%, 50%, and 75% increases in percent overlap days between paroxetine and tamoxifen, hazard ratios were 1.06 (95% CI = 0.98 to 1.14, P = .09), 1.13 (95% CI = 0.98 to 1.30, P = .09), and 1.20 (95% CI = 0.97 to 1.49, P = .09), respectively, in the first year of tamoxifen treatment but were not statistically significant. Hazard ratios decreased to 0.94 (95% CI = 0.81 to 1.10, P = .46), 0.89 (95% CI = 0.66 to 1.20, P = .46), and 0.85 (95% CI = 0.54 to 1.32, P = .46) by the fifth year (all non-statistically significantly). Absolute subsequent breast cancer rates were similar among women who used paroxetine concomitantly with tamoxifen vs tamoxifen-only users. For the other antidepressants, we again found no such associations.
Using the comprehensive electronic health records of insured patients, we did not observe an increased risk of subsequent breast cancer in women who concurrently used tamoxifen and antidepressants, including paroxetine.