Bone Drugs Could Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

The use of bisphosphonates -- drugs already taken by millions of healthy women to prevent bone loss -- for more than one year has been associated with a 29 percent reduction in the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, according to results presented today by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers at the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio, Texas.

Lead researcher Gad Rennert, M.D., Ph.D., of the Technion Faculty of Medicine and chairman of the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology at the Carmel Medical Center of Clalit Health Services, said these data help shed light on a possible new pathway for breast cancer prevention.

 Dr. Gad Rennert
 Dr. Gad Rennert

“We have identified a new class of drugs that is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, and if proven in randomized trials we may be able to recommend it to postmenopausal women for this purpose,” said Rennert.

Rennert and colleagues extracted data from the Breast Cancer in Northern Israel Study, a population-based case-control study in northern Israel. They evaluated the use of bisphosphonates for at least five years in 4,575 postmenopausal study participants using a structured interview.

The self-reported long-term use of bisphosphonates prior to diagnosis was associated with a significant reduced relative risk for breast cancer by approximately 34 percent.

This reduction remained significant, at 29 percent, even after adjusting for a large variety of risk factors for breast cancer such as age, fruit and vegetable consumption, sports activity, family history of breast cancer, ethnic group, body mass index, calcium supplement and hormone replacement therapy use, number of pregnancies, months of breastfeeding and age at first pregnancy.

Moreover, the breast tumors identified among patients who used bisphosphonates were more often estrogen receptor positive and less often poorly differentiated.

“These tumors are the type that are associated with a better prognosis,” said Rennert. 

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university.  Home to the country's winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine.  The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with offices around the country.

(* This article was adapted from from a press release issued by  the American Association for Cancer Research)


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