Drugs used to treat osteoporosis not linked with higher risk of esophageal cancer

August 10, 2010

Although some reports have suggested a link between the use of oral bisphosphonates (drugs that prevent the loss of bone mass) and esophageal cancer, analysis of medical data from more than 80,000 patients in the United Kingdom found that use of these drugs was not significantly associated with new cases of esophageal or gastric cancer, according to a study in the August 11 issue of JAMA.

Bisphosphonates are mainly used to prevent or treat osteoporosis, especially in . Their use has increased dramatically in recent years in the United States and other Western populations, and are now commonly prescribed in elderly women, according to background information in the article. "Esophagitis [inflammation of the esophagus] is a known adverse effect of bisphosphonate use, and recent reports suggest a link between bisphosphonate use and esophageal cancer, but this has not been robustly investigated," the authors write. "Large studies with appropriate comparison groups, adequate follow-up, robust characterization of bisphosphonate exposure, and information on relevant confounders are required to determine whether increase esophageal cancer risk."

Chris R. Cardwell, Ph.D., of Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated the association between bisphosphonate use and esophageal cancer by extracting data from the UK General Practice Research Database of patients treated with oral bisphosphonates, along with a group of patients not treated with these drugs (control cohort), between January 1996 and December 2006. Average follow-up time was 4.5 and 4.4 years in the bisphosphonate and control cohorts, respectively.

Excluding patients with less than 6 months follow-up, there were 41,826 members in each group (81 percent women; average age, 70.0 years). One hundred sixteen esophageal or gastric cancers (79 esophageal) occurred in the bisphosphonate cohort and 115 (72 esophageal) in the control cohort. Analysis of the incidence of these cancers among the bisphosphonate and control groups found no difference in risk of esophageal and combined between the cohorts for any bisphosphonate use or risk of esophageal cancer only. There also was no difference in risk of esophageal or gastric cancer by duration of bisphosphonate intake.

"In conclusion, in the UK GPRD patient population we found no evidence for a substantially increased risk of esophageal (or gastric) cancer in persons using oral bisphosphonates. These drugs should not be withheld, on the basis of possible risk, from patients with a genuine clinical indication for their use," the authors write.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers unravel novel mechanism by which tumors grow resistant to radiotherapy

November 23, 2017
A Ludwig Cancer Research study has uncovered a key mechanism by which tumors develop resistance to radiation therapy and shown how such resistance might be overcome with drugs that are currently under development. The discovery ...

African Americans face highest risk for multiple myeloma yet underrepresented in research

November 23, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

Encouraging oxygen's assault on iron may offer new way to kill lung cancer cells

November 22, 2017
Blocking the action of a key protein frees oxygen to damage iron-dependent proteins in lung and breast cancer cells, slowing their growth and making them easier to kill. This is the implication of a study led by researchers ...

One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

One in four U.S. seniors with cancer has had it before

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—For a quarter of American seniors, a cancer diagnosis signals the return of an old foe, new research shows.

Combination immunotherapy targets cancer resistance

November 22, 2017
Cancer immunotherapy drugs have had notable but limited success because in many cases, tumors develop resistance to treatment. But researchers at Yale and Stanford have identified an experimental antibody that overcomes this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.