How Likely Are People to Develop Cancer From Zantac?

October 25, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
How Likely Are People to Develop Cancer From Zantac?

Zantac Cancer Risk

Millions of people have to learn to live with heartburn and acid indigestion. Our lifestyles, sleep patterns, and overall food habits all contribute to this ailment. The widespread nature of this problem has made medicines providing relief from heartburn and acid indigestion readily available. Among all the available medications treating heartburn and other related symptoms, Zantac (also known by its generic, ranitidine) is the most noteworthy. Zantac was a common household name for people suffering from heartburn for a long time, until September 2019, when researchers announced they found cancer-causing N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in Zantac. Unfortunately, Zantac has been shown to contain high levels of NDMA when kept on shelves longer or in warm room. NDMA is a carcinogen and shown to cause a variety of cancers from liver cancer to breast cancer. If you took Zantac for many years, you may be concerned about your risk of developing cancer from Zantac. You may wonder what the chances are that you will develop cancer caused by Zantac. Individuals who are taking Zantac should talk to their doctors about alternative options to Zantac. They should discuss the risks of developing cancer and monitor their health for signs and symptoms of Zantac cancer. If you are diagnosed with cancer and you believe that your cancer was caused by Zantac, we can help. Contact our Zantac lawsuit lawyers today to learn more about your legal options.

Link Between Ranitidine and NDMA

Ranitidine was readily available over the counter and was also a commonly prescribed medication for heartburn or severe ulcer complaints. The over-the-counter Zantac dose was 150 milligram tablets, while the prescription Zantac was 300 milligrams. Patients consumed more than 300,000 nanograms of NDMA through each tablet. The acceptable level of NDMA is only 96 nanograms per day. Taking a single tablet of Zantac meant taking 3,000 times the recommended dose of NDMA. NDMA is a carcinogen and can cause other serious diseases, even when consumed in small amounts. The chances of developing cancer rise depending on the length of exposure to NDMA. If the product remains on the selves longer or is kept in a place higher than room temperature, the NDMA levels increase.

NDMA Exposure and Cancer

Research on rodents who inhaled NDMA or drank it in water has shown an increase in hepatic, pulmonary, and renal tumors. NDMA is one of the most potent animal carcinogens. Based on rodent tests and what researchers have seen in humans, NDMA is metabolized in rodents in the same way as in humans, making it a human carcinogen as well. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified NDMA as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), and emphasized that it views NDMA as if it were carcinogenic to humans. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) support this view. NMDA can form through industrial processes, such as the chlorination of wastewater or drinking water. However, NDMA can also form through natural processes. Nitrite (“N”) and dimethylamine (“D”) make up ranitidine—making patients vulnerable to NDMA when taking Zantac. Low levels of NDMA in people's everyday diets may not be dangerous. However high levels of exposure significantly increase the chances of getting cancer.

Investigations Linking NDMA and Zantac

The FDA first knew of Zantac's alarming quantities of NDMA in summer 2019, when an independent pharmacy published its research. The FDA then conducted its own research and found NDMA in Zantac in low levels. Based on these findings, the FDA did not find it appropriate to ban Zantac or roll out mass recalls. Instead, the public was simply advised to choose other alternatives. But given the popularity of Zantac, the general public continued consuming Zantac. While the FDA carried out more investigations, countries like Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland quickly terminated the distribution of drugs containing ranitidine. During its investigation, the FDA found a link between NDMA and Zantac and concluded that the levels of NDMA increased in Zantac under normal storage conditions. The correlation between the increase in NDMA levels in Zantac and storing it in higher temperatures also became clear. The risk was higher when consumers bought the medicine and stored it at higher temperatures. The distribution and length of time in storage also significantly increased the risk of higher levels of NDMA. Consumers can't ever know the temperatures that their batch of Zantac went through during its manufacture, distribution, and sale. Zantac that has reached a customer was probably exposed to the higher temperatures that make the NDMA levels rise.

Types of Cancer Caused by Zantac

Zantac and other ranitidine containing medicines may be linked to several types of cancers. These cancers may include:
  • Stomach cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Throat or nasal cancer
  • Cancer in the small intestine
  • Cancer in the large intestine
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
Other forms of Zantac-related cancers may also include:
  • Brain cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Islet cell tumors
  • Kidney cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
Data increasingly correlates ranitidine use and cancer. Specifically, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is currently studying this correlation, attempting to shed light on these concerning health questions.

Zantac and Breast Cancer

Evidence has also shown the relation between Zantac use and breast cancer. A 2008 study showed that ranitidine more than doubled the risk of ductal carcinoma. This increase occurred in both men and women. In the United States, this is the most common type of breast cancer, making up almost 20 percent of all new cases. A man from Florida who had regularly consumed Zantac for four years before his  breast cancer diagnosis filed a lawsuit claiming that the drug caused his cancer.

Zantac Liver Cancer Link

Further research could establish the link between Zantac and cancer, in particular liver cancer. The CDC states that NDMA harms the livers of both animals and humans. Some symptoms often found with liver cancer may include:
  • Upper abdominal pain;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Vomiting;
  • Nausea;
  • White, chalky stools.
Many people who have used Zantac have already developed cases of liver cancer.

Other Ways NDMA Forms

Studies show NDMA forms in daily activities, such as cooking. Specifically, cooking cured meats and fish can produce NDMA because those foods use sodium nitrite as a preservative. Vegetables, cheeses, alcoholic beverages like beer, certain fruits, rubber, and tobacco smoke can contain NDMA. However, FDA preliminary tests found higher levels of NDMA in the Zantac tablets than in food.

Will You Get Cancer From Zantac?

The first notice the FDA received was from the online pharmacy company, Valisure. The company was running routine testing when it found high levels of NDMA and filed a citizen petition detailing its findings. It sent this report to the FDA in September. “We think the problem is much worse than contamination,” Valisure CEO David Light stated, warning of the potential of the drug itself breaking down to form NDMA. Other research conducted also indirectly supported this potential. Stanford University conducted a study, giving ten healthy volunteers each one 150-milligram tablet of Zantac. The volunteers' urine contained over 47,000 nanograms of NDMA. The researchers noted, though, that the actual amount was likely much higher because the body may have metabolized most of the NDMA before it even reached the urine. Another study involved people with peptic ulcers, and concluded that those taking Zantac or Tagamet (cimetidine), another antacid, increased those individuals' chances of getting bladder cancer.

Zantac Recall

Drug companies began taking action and recalling Zantac in October 2019. Specifically, Apotex and Novartis both recalled any version of generic ranitidine being sold over the counter or through a prescription throughout the United States. Sanofi, another pharmaceutical company, also voluntarily recalled:
  • Zantac 150
  • Zantac 150 Cool Mint
  • Zantac 75
From November 2019 through January 2020, eight additional recalls of products containing ranitidine were issued as well.

Common Zantac Cancer Symptoms

If you or any of your loved ones used Zantac to treat heartburn or acid indigestion, or did so in the past, you need to know the symptoms of the cancers linked with Zantac consumption. Knowledge and awareness of these symptoms may save your or your loved one's life. Common Zantac cancer symptoms include:
  • Weight loss;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Vomiting;
  • Nausea;
  • Bloody stools (which could indicate intestinal bleeding);
  • Change in bowel habits;
  • Pain or cramps in the abdomen;
  • Anemia symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and weakness
  • Back pain
  • Skin or eyes yellowing
  • Dark or blood in the urine
  • Urinary urgency or incontinence
  • Painful urination
  • Itchy skin
This list is not exhaustive, but if you have experienced any of these cancer symptoms related to Zantac, see your doctor as soon as possible. If you consume Zantac, seek a medical opinion regarding an alternative. If you have these symptoms and were diagnosed with cancer due to your use of Zantac, consult an experienced law firm to help you learn about your legal remedies.

When to Consider if Zantac Exposure Has Caused Cancer

If you or your loved one used Zantac or ranitidine and were diagnosed with cancer, you will want to know if you took Zantac and for how long. The length of time you took Zantac can have a direct effect on your risk of cancer, although anyone who has taken Zantac and is diagnosed with cancer should contact an experienced law firm immediately.

What Are Your Legal Remedies if Your Zantac Exposure Has Caused Cancer?

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With the help of medical experts and a law firm to support you, you can receive compensation for not only your medical expenses but also for your pain and suffering. If you took Zantac and have a cancer diagnosis or symptoms appearing, you may qualify to join or initiate a lawsuit. Experts predict a wave of Zantac lawsuits in the next few years. In February 2020, a motion to form multidistrict litigation (MDL) formed, specifically MDL No. 2924. If your case joins this federal claim and succeeds, you could receive a settlement or other compensation. Find out if you qualify by hiring a law firm that can help you with this process. Reach out now for a case evaluation to determine if a product liability lawyer can support you. Contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today for a free consultation.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 N Belcher Rd Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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