Valproic Acid Cut Head, Neck Cancer Risk

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Valproic Acid Cut Head, Neck Cancer Risk
Valproic Acid Cut Head, Neck Cancer Risk

(HealthDay News) — Long-term use of valproic acid (VPA) is associated with a reduced risk of smoking-related cancers of the head and neck, according to a study published online March 24 in Cancer.

Hyunseok Kang, MD, MPH, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed linked data from the National Veterans Affairs (VA) medical SAS data set (2002 through 2008) and the VA Central Cancer Registry.

Cancer incidence was assessed in a cohort of 26,911 veterans aged older than 40 years who were followed in the VA system for at least 1 year for one of four diagnoses: bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, migraines, and seizures. A group of 412,717 non-VPA users was also followed.

RELATED: Head and Neck Cancer Resource Center

The researchers observed a significant reduction in the risk of cancers of the head and neck associated with VPA use (hazard ratio [HR], 0.66). Associations were observed for treatment duration and median VPA drug levels.

There were no significant differences in the incidence of cancers of the lung (HR, 1.00; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84 to 1.19), bladder (HR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.64 to 1.15), colon (HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.74 to 1.22), or prostate (HR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.88 to 1.12).

"Use of VPA is associated with a lower risk of developing head and neck cancers," the researchers wrote.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.


  1. Kang H, Gillespie TW, Goodman M, et al. Long-term use of valproic acid in US veterans is associated with a reduced risk of smoking-related cases of head and neck cancer. Cancer. 2014; doi:10.1002/cncr.28479.

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