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Bisphosphonates May Help Prevent Endometrial Cancer

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Key Points

  • Preclinical studies have suggested that bisphosphonates may have antitumor effects.
  • The incidence rate for endometrial cancer was 8.7 per 10,000 person-years among nitrogenous bisphosphonate ever-users vs 17.7 per 10,000 person-years among those who were never exposed to bisphosphonates.

A new analysis suggests that women who use bisphosphonates have about half the risk of developing endometrial cancer as women who do not use the drugs. The findings by Alford et al, published early online in Cancer, supports other research that has shown an anticancer effect of this type of medication.

Endometrial cancer accounts for nearly 50% of gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the United States, 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 the medications also have antitumor effects, including the ability to keep tumor cells from multiplying and from invading normal tissues.

Study Details

To assess whether bisphosphonates might help prevent endometrial cancer, Sharon Hensley Alford, PhD, of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, led a team that evaluated information from the National Cancer Institute’s PLCO (Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian) Screening Trial, which included questionnaires about bone medication use. The researchers analyzed data for only those bisphosphonates that contain nitrogen as these are known to have stronger anticancer activity.

A total of 29,254 women were included in the analysis. The incidence rate for endometrial cancer was 8.7 per 10,000 person-years among women who reported being current or former users of bisphosphonates, while among never-exposed women, the incidence rate was 17.7 per 10,000 person-years. After adjusting for factors including age, race, history of hormone therapy use, smoking status, and body mass index, the effect of bisphosphonates was similar.

“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 Dr. 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.”

Dr. Alford is the corresponding author for the CANCER study.

The study authors reported no potential conflicts of interest.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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