Anthraquinone laxatives and human cancer: an association in one case

Postgrad Med J. 1989 Apr;65(762):216-7. doi: 10.1136/pgmj.65.762.216.


An 18 year old girl presented with a leiomyosarcoma of the small bowel with widespread dissemination. Despite short term remissions after chemotherapy and surgery she died of the disease 10 months later. A history of prolonged exposure to danthron (an anthraquinone laxative) in childhood was obtained. Anthraquinones are known to be mutagenic and may be carcinogenic in experimental systems but danthron is not a proven carcinogen in man. The association of danthron and a rare bowel cancer in one case cannot prove a causative link. However, collection of further data seems advisable.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthraquinones / adverse effects*
  • Cathartics / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ileal Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Leiomyosarcoma / chemically induced*
  • Leiomyosarcoma / secondary
  • Mutagens / adverse effects


  • Anthraquinones
  • Cathartics
  • Mutagens
  • danthron