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Bone Loss Drugs May Help Prevent Endometrial Cancer

New use seen for bisphosphonates

A new analysis suggests that women who use bisphosphonates — medications commonly used to treat osteoporosis and other bone conditions — have about half the risk of developing endometrial cancer compared with women who do not use the drugs. Published online in Cancer, the study supports other research that has shown an anti-cancer effect of this type of medication.

            Endometrial cancer, which develops in the lining of the uterus, accounts for nearly 50% of gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the U.S. and it is the fourth most-common malignancy in women and the eighth most common cause of cancer death. While bisphosphonates are known to prevent bone loss, preclinical studies have shown that these drugs also have antitumor effects, including the ability to keep tumor cells from multiplying and from invading normal tissues.

            To assess whether bisphosphonates might help prevent endometrial cancer, researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, evaluated information from the National Cancer Institute’s PLCO (Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian) Screening Trial, which included questionnaires regarding the use of bone medications. The researchers analyzed data only for bisphosphonates that contained nitrogen, as those drugs are known to have stronger anticancer activity.

            A total of 29,254 women were included in the analysis. After accounting for factors such as age, race, history of hormone therapy use, smoking status, and body mass index, the authors found that bisphosphonate users were half as likely to develop endometrial cancer.

            “Other studies have shown that bisphosphonates may reduce the risk of certain cancers, but we are the first to show that the risk for endometrial cancer may also be reduced,” said lead investigator Dr. Hensley Alford. “This study suggests that women who need bone-strengthening medications and who have increased risk for endometrial cancer may want to choose the nitrogen form of bisphosphonates because this form may reduce the risk of endometrial cancer.”

            Source: Wiley; December 22, 2014.

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