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The Downside of Sleeping Pills

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A study published in the journal BMJ Open shows that Americans who take sleeping pills are more likely to develop cancer and die prematurely than people who don't take the pills, reports Melissa Healy in the Los Angeles Times' Booster Shots blog. The study also revealed that even small amounts of sleeping pills like Ambien or Lunesta can raise a person's risk of cancer, Healy says. The heaviest users of these drugs were 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than those who did not take them, the study found.

However, Healy adds, "Studies such as this one do not establish whether sleep drugs are a cause of the increased cancers and deaths or whether, perhaps, those who are at greater risk of dying or developing cancer are simply more likely to seek a prescription for sleep problems."

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