No bones about it: Potential colorectal cancer chemoprevention with bisphosphonates

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Post-menopausal women using bisphosophonates to treat osteoporosis may also be reducing their risk of colorectal cancer (CRC), according to a new case-control study presented at the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium (ASCO-GI) yesterday. Researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel followed up with 1,800 women taking bisphosphonates and found that their CRC risk decreased the longer they were on the therapy, maxing out at an 80 percent decrease after three years. The researchers also found that bisphosphonate therapy reduced the risk of breast cancer. Bisphosphonates are the most commonly used drugs to prevent and treat osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), which can lead to fractures and chronic disability. Such drugs include Fosamax, Boniva and Actonel.

“Celebrex and other COX-II inhibitor data strongly support their potential to reduce CRC risk, and now perhaps we can add bisphosphonates to the list of CRC chemoprevention drugs,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “However, this is hardly a cause-and-effect study because CRC risk is studied as a secondary outcome. This is a good hypothesis-generating study that definitely warrants follow-up with a randomized-control study that looks exclusively at the effect of bisphosphonate therapy on CRC risk.”