General Anesthesia Does Not Boost Cancer Risk, Study Finds

New research doesn't support previous reports of a link between cancer and anesthesia

MONDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Among patients given general anesthesia for surgery, the length or depth of sedation was not linked to an increased risk of developing cancer within five years of the operation, Swedish researchers report.

"Neither duration of anesthesia nor increased cumulative time with profound sevoflurane anesthesia was associated with an increased risk for new malignant disease within five years after surgery in previously cancer-free patients," study author Maj-Lis Lindholm, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, concluded in a news release from the International Anesthesia Research Society.

In conducting the study, researchers looked at data on almost 3,000 cancer-free Swedish surgical patients who were given sevoflurane -- one of the most widely used inhaled anesthetics. The news release said other studies have raised the theory that anesthesia might reduce immune responses during surgery.

Following up on the patients five years after surgery, the researchers found that 4.3 percent had developed cancer. After taking other factors into consideration, however, the study revealed that there was no link between the duration of anesthesia or the time spent at various depths of sedation with the patient's risk for cancer.

But the researchers pointed out that the rate of cancer among the participants was 37 percent higher than the general population. The findings, they noted in the news release, could not explain this possible increase in cancer risk among patients undergoing surgery.

The study authors also pointed out that the findings do not apply to those having cancer-related surgery or surgeries involving cancer survivors.

The findings were published in the October issue of the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about anesthesia.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: International Anesthesia Research Society, news release, September 2011

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