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Osteoporosis Health Center

Osteoporosis Drugs Linked to Lower Cancer Risk

Study Suggests Bone Loss Drugs May Reduce a Woman’s Risk of Colon Cancer
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Bisphosphonates and Cancer Risk

For the study, which was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from Israel and the U.S. recruited 933 postmenopausal women with colon cancer and matched them by age, ethnicity, and location to a group of healthy women.

The researchers then looked at pharmacy records to determine which women had used bisphosphonate medications and for how long those drugs were used.

They found that women who had used the drugs for at least a year had a 50% reduced risk of colon cancer compared to those who had taken them for shorter periods.

That association actually got slightly stronger, showing a 59% risk reduction, even after researchers took into account other things known to influence colon cancer risk, including family history of colon cancer, body mass index (BMI), sports activity, eating vegetables, and the use of vitamin D, aspirin, statins, or hormone replacement therapy.

“I would not recommend bisphosphonates for prevention [of cancer] to anybody at this stage,” says study researcher Gad Rennert, MD, PhD, of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology faculty of medicine and chairman of the department of community medicine and epidemiology at the Carmel Medical Center of Clalit Health Services.

“My study is an association study and needs to be replicated by others and potentially brought to test in a randomized, controlled trial before we can recommend that. This is how our knowledge evolves, step by step. My study is the first to suggest this association and I hope more will follow and we will find ourselves with a new drug with cancer prevention qualities,” Rennert says.

Rennert points out, however, that the association is strengthened by the fact that other groups have noted similar effects on cancer and because there’s some evidence to suggest that bisphosphonates may have a direct effect on the biology of cancer cells.

In petri dishes, bisphosphonates have been shown to having a wide range of anticancer effects. “In the next six to nine months you’re going to see more literature on the epidemiology involved and the basic science involved,” Zaidi says. “This is not happening in isolation. It’s real.”

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