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Cancer Lett. 2005 Dec 18;230(2):284-91.

Cytogenetic effects in children treated with methylphenidate.

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Department of Epidemiology, Box 189, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


In recent years there has been a surge in methylphenidate (Ritalin) use for treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. However, there is a paucity of information on whether this drug poses any potential health risks, such as mutagenicity or carcinogenicity, for humans. To address this issue, we investigated whether this central nervous system stimulant produces cytogenetic abnormalities in pediatric patients at therapeutic levels. In a population composed of twelve children treated with therapeutic doses of methylphenidate, we analyzed three cytogenetic endpoints in peripheral blood lymphocytes obtained before and three months after initiation of treatment with this drug. In all participants, treatment induced a significant 3, 4.3 and 2.4-fold increase in chromosome aberrations, sister chromatid exchanges and micronuclei frequencies, respectively (P=0.000 in all cases). These findings warrant further investigations of the possible health effects of methylphenidate in humans, especially in view of the well-documented relationship between elevated frequencies of chromosome aberrations and increased cancer risk.

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