Bone drugs may raise cancer risk

By Maria Cheng
Associated Press / September 3, 2010

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LONDON — People who take many bone-strengthening drugs for several years may have a slightly higher risk of esophageal cancer, a new study says.

Researchers analyzed the records of nearly 3,000 people with esophageal cancer and compared each case to five other similar people who didn’t have the disease. Researchers also looked at about 10,000 people with bowel cancer and about 2,000 people with stomach cancer. The study included more than 90,000 people who were followed for about 8 years.

The paper was only observational and did not show that the osteoporosis drugs caused cancer. Previous studies have been divided over whether the risk is real. Last month, a paper was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined about 80,000 people found that the drugs were not linked to esophageal or stomach cancer.

Osteoporosis drugs are commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women. Their use in the West has soared.

Normally, the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, or throat, in people aged 60 to 79 is 1 in 1,000. In people who had 10 or more prescriptions for osteoporosis drugs for about 5 years, the risk was 2 in 1,000. Researchers did not find any link between the drugs and stomach or bowel cancer. The study was funded by Britain’s Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK. It was published today in BMJ.

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