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Osteoporosis drug cuts risk of breast cancer

By Lilian Anekwe

Women with osteoporosis treated with bisphosphonates have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who have never had the drug, according to a US population-based study.

Previous research suggested the most commonly used nitrogen-containing compounds in bisphosphonates could also inhibit a process called protein prenylation, and so might have a protective effect against the formation of tumours.

To evaluate whether the drugs had an anti-tumour effect that prevented breast cancer, researchers conducted a case-control study of 3,000 women aged 70 and under in Wisconsin between 2003 and 2006, and 3,000 matched controls. The odds ratio for breast cancer in women who were prescribed bisphosphonates had a 33% lower risk of breast cancer than those in the control group.

Study leader Dr Polly Newcomb, cancer epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin, said: ‘These results suggest an additional benefit of bisphosphonates – in this instance, the reduction in breast cancer risk.'

British Journal of Cancer 2010, online 16 February

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