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Bisphosphonates 'not a cancer risk'

Bisphosphonates are not associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to research conducted on a UK primary care population.

Researchers used the UK General Practice Research Database to identify 41,826 bisphosphonate users aged 40 and 46,036 matched controls. 

Although previous studies have observed an increased risk of breast, colorectal and oesophageal cancers in long-term bisphosphonate users, in this study they were significantly less likely to develop cancer compared with non-users – a 13% overall decrease in risk. 

There was also a significant 24% decrease in risk for developing colorectal cancer compared with non-users.

Women were 29% less likely to develop breast cancer when compared with non-users, a significant decrease. Ovarian and endometrial cancers were also associated with significant reductions, but this data only featured small numbers of bisphosphonate cases.

Study lead Dr Chris Caldwell, lecturer at Queen’s University in Belfast, said: ‘Our findings indicate that bisphosphonates do not appear to increase cancer risk, although it is unclear to what extent confounding by low bone density may explain the association between bisphosphonates and reductions in breast and colorectal cancer incidence.’

International Journal of Cancer 2012, online 1 September

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