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Use of bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis may reduce the risk of breast cancer. The results of this study were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Bisphosphonates are a class of drugs used to prevent and treat osteoporosis and to reduce the risk of bone complications from bone metastases or multiple myeloma. Studies have suggested that in addition to their effects on bone, bisphosphonates may also have certain anticancer effects.

To assess whether bisphosphonates used for osteoporosis influence the risk of breast cancer, researchers conducted a study among 2,936 women with breast cancer and 2,975 women without breast cancer. All women were under the age of 70 years.

Bisphosphonates that may be used to treat osteoporosis include Fosamax® (alendronate), Actonel® (risedronate), Boniva® (ibandronate), and Reclast® (zoledronic acid).

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  • Compared with women who had never used bisphosphonates, women who currently used bisphosphonates were 33% less likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Longer duration of bisphosphonate use was associated with a greater reduction in risk of breast cancer.
  • The reduction in risk of breast cancer among bisphosphonate users appeared to be limited to women who were not obese.

The researchers concluded that bisphosphonates may be linked with a potentially important reduction in breast cancer risk.

Like most drugs, bisphosphonates carry a risk of side effects. Women who are considering bisphosphonate use to manage osteoporosis are advised to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits.

Reference: Newcomb PA, Trentham-Dietz A, Hamptom JM. Bisphosphonates for osteoporosis treatment are associated with reduced breast cancer risk. British Journal of Cancer. 2010;102:799-802.

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