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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Short-term chloral hydrate administration and cancer in humans.

OBJECTIVE: Chloral hydrate, used as a hypnosedative in adults and children, has been shown to be genotoxic and carcinogenic in animal studies. We investigated the potential causal association between chloral hydrate exposure and cancer risk in humans. METHODS: Cancer incidence was previously determined via biennial screening analyses of the 215 most commonly used drugs between 1976 and 1998 for a cohort of 143,574 outpatients at Kaiser Permanente who had prescriptions filled between 1969 and 1973. Among users of chloral hydrate, statistically significant elevations in standardised morbidity ratios were observed during various years for cancer at five anatomical sites, including the lung, stomach, prostate, skin melanoma and mouth floor. In this analysis, these associations were investigated using: (i) a dose-response analysis among exposed subjects; and (ii) a two-stage design with exposed and non-exposed persons. RESULTS: There was evidence of an increasing risk of prostate cancer with increasing number of dispensings of chloral hydrate, which persisted after controlling for benign prostatic hypertrophy, vasectomy and obesity; however, the trend was not statistically significant. There was no evidence of a dose-response relationship between chloral hydrate and risk of any of the other four cancers. In the two-stage design, analyses comparing exposed and unexposed subjects showed no increased risk of cancer after controlling for confounding variables; however, the data were suggestive for prostate cancer, where the increased risk associated with chloral hydrate exposure after adjustment for confounding variables persisted. No dose-response relationship was seen for any of the other four cancer sites. CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the relationship between chloral hydrate exposure and cancer risk in humans. There was no persuasive evidence to support a causal relationship between chloral hydrate exposure in humans and the development of cancer. However, statistical power was low for weak associations, particularly for some of the individual cancer sites. Although animal data using much higher doses of chloral hydrate have demonstrated its genotoxicity and carcinogenicity, the effects of chloral hydrate in humans are still uncertain.[1]


  1. Short-term chloral hydrate administration and cancer in humans. Haselkorn, T., Whittemore, A.S., Udaltsova, N., Friedman, G.D. Drug safety : an international journal of medical toxicology and drug experience. (2006) [Pubmed]
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