MONDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Prescription sleeping pills may help you get some much needed rest at night, but using them routinely might also make it more likely that you will die or develop certain types of cancer, research suggests.
A new study suggests that those who take these medications are four times more likely to die than people who don't take them. What's more, the research shows that sleeping pill use is also associated with a raised risk for certain cancers. The findings appear online Feb. 27 in the journal BMJ Open.
Sleeping pills linked to these risks included benzodiazepines such as temazepam; non-benzodiazepines such as Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (eszopiclone) and Sonata (zaleplon); barbiturates; and sedative antihistamines.
The new study only shows an association between the sleeping aids and death risk, not cause-and-effect, and many experts are urging caution in jumping to any conclusions from the findings.
The study author, however, was less reticent.
"Popular sleeping pills are associated with a shocking excess of deaths and a horrible increase in new cancers," said Dr. Daniel Kripke, of the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center, in La Jolla, Calif.
Many Americans use sleeping pills. During 2010, between one in 20 and one in 10 adults took a sleeping pill in the United States.
In the new study, Kripke's team tracked more than 10,500 people averaging 54 years of age. These patients had a range of underlying health conditions and were prescribed sleeping pills for an average of about 2.5 years between 2002 and 2007. The researchers compared these patients' risks for death and cancer against those of people who did not take sleeping pills.
Those who were prescribed up to 18 doses a year were 3.6 times more likely to die than their counterparts who were prescribed none, while those prescribed between 18 and 132
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