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Does Zantac Cause Cancer?

Zantac made with ranitidine that was contaminated with NDMA, a probable human carcinogen, can increase the risk of a person developing cancer. Types of cancer caused by Zantac with ranitidine include bladder, colon and prostate.

Last Modified: September 5, 2023
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The science regarding Zantac made with ranitidine and cancer in humans hasn’t shown whether or not ranitidine definitively causes cancer.

Concerns over Zantac’s link to cancer stem from a potential connection between ranitidine and its ability to form NDMA. Some studies as far back as the 1980s hinted at a link between the drug and NDMA formation. But one study that looked at the records of 65 million people found people who took ranitidine had less of a cancer risk than those who took another H2 blocker, famotidine.

Since the FDA requested a market withdrawal of all Zantac products containing ranitidine, Sanofi released a new Zantac 360 over-the-counter formula made with famotidine. So far, the FDA hasn’t linked famotidine to NDMA contamination or an increased risk of cancer.

There are over 2,056 federal Zantac lawsuits filed in Florida federal court against the makers of the anti-acid drug as of Dec. 15, 2022. These lawsuits claim Zantac caused several types of cancer and drug makers failed to warn the public. The main cancer in these lawsuits is bladder cancer.

What Is in Zantac That Causes Cancer?

NDMA is the main chemical in Zantac that is known to cause cancer in animals and probably in humans.

Zantac’s relationship with NDMA is unique. Out of all the drugs that FDA has found to be contaminated with NDMA — including valsartan, losartan and metformin — ranitidine has been the only medication in which levels of the carcinogen may actually increase over time as the drug sits on the shelf.

“FDA has found N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) levels in some ranitidine products increase with time and temperature posing a risk to consumers, and therefore the agency has requested the withdrawal of all ranitidine products from the U.S. market.”

The pharmacy Valisure first brought the problem to the FDA’s attention in June 2019, and it filed a citizen’s petition in September 2019 requesting that the FDA recall all ranitidine products.

The pharmacy’s research found that ranitidine was unstable and could generate very high levels of NDMA. Ranitidine contains a dimethylamine (“DMA”) and a nitrite, chemicals that combine to form NDMA.

Studies performed by Stanford University and other academic groups revealed NDMA levels far above the FDA’s current daily acceptable intake limit of 96 ng. In fact, the Stanford study suspected that ranitidine could form millions of ng of NDMA.

What Are the Chances of Getting Cancer?

So far, there is only limited evidence that NDMA in ranitidine causes cancer, and scientists haven’t come up with an absolute risk value.

A study under review conducted by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found an increased risk in the odds of developing certain cancers, according to a 2020 article by Richard H. Adamson and Bruce A. Chabner in The Oncologist.

The European Medicines Agency estimated that the cancer risk for valsartan, another medication contaminated with NDMA, ranges from 12 to almost 30 cases per 100,000 people for those taking 320 mg of valsartan with 3.7 micrograms of NDEA and 24.1 micrograms of NDMA every day for four years, according to Adamson and Chabner.

“NDMA contamination poses a potential carcinogenic risk of undetermined effect at present for those taking ranitidine, valsartan, or related medications on a regular basis.”

But scientists haven’t come up with a risk for ranitidine, though authors said, “the risk from NDMA in ranitidine and in its over‐the‐counter version, Zantac, is more problematic and may be greater.”

Not all studies agree that ranitidine poses a risk compared to other drugs. For example, Dr. Nabeeha Mohyuddin, an internal medicine resident at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, and colleagues collected the data of 1.62 million people who used ranitidine, 3.37 million users of famotidine and 59.63 million people who didn’t use either H2 blocker.

The rates of cancer were lower with ranitidine than with famotidine, an H2 blocker not contaminated with NDMA. The chance of getting cancer from ranitidine was 26.4 percent versus 31.1 percent for people who took famotidine. Limitations of the study included incorrect records and lack of reported data on the extent of ranitidine and famotidine use.

What Types of Cancer Does Zantac Cause?

Zantac and other ranitidine products contaminated with high levels of NDMA, a probable human carcinogen, could cause many types of cancer, including bladder cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. It’s important to know that the research on this topic is still new and scientists haven’t found solid evidence that says Zantac causes any type of cancer. But they cannot rule out the drug’s cancer causing potential either.

According to lawyers accepting Zantac cancer cases, many people who developed cancer after taking ranitidine didn’t have a family history of cancer or genetic markers for the disease. Their treating physicians stressed that the cancer was caused by something environmental. NDMA is an environmental contaminant.

Types of cancer caused by Zantac include:
  • Bladder cancer and bladder removal
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Kidney cancer and kidney removal
  • Liver cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Breast cancer

Other potential cancers include stomach, colorectal, esophageal, breast, liver, prostate, pancreatic, ovarian and melanoma.

In at least two studies, one in 2004 by the National Cancer Institute and another in 2016 by Teng Zeng and William A. Mitch of Stanford University, researchers found potential links between ranitidine and bladder cancer, according to Valisure. But they didn’t find proof of causation.

A survey of 24,000 patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that ranitidine use was associated with an increased chance of presenting with breast, testicular, thyroid and kidney cancer, according to Adamson and Chabner.

What To Do If You’ve Been Diagnosed with Cancer

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac, tell your doctor about your history with ranitidine. It may help them determine your diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Make sure to keep your doctor’s notes and medical records. You may qualify to file a Zantac lawsuit and be eligible for compensation from Zantac’s makers.

Some people who took brand-name Zantac made with ranitidine filed cancer lawsuits against the drug’s makers. But in December 2022, a judge dismissed more than 2,000 lawsuits in multidistrict litigation in Florida. Plaintiffs will likely appeal the decision.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.