In two large studies, published in June 2010 (in the Journal of Clinical Oncology) investigators report that the use of a class of osteoporosis medications called, “bisphosphonates” significantly reduced the risk of developing invasive breast cancer (approximately 30% risk reduction) in postmenopausal women. These impressive results remained even after controlling for numerous other breast cancer risk factors.
These studies add to previously published data demonstrating multiple anti-cancer effects with bisphosphonates (i.e. reduction in bone metastases, inhibition of tumoral blood vessels, increased tumor cell death and clinical data suggesting decreased recurrence of breast cancer.)
This study is important as it suggests that the use of bisphosphonates may be an effective chemopreventive therapy for postmenopausal women with a higher risk of breast cancer. Taking bisphosphonates has been associated with a rare, but serious complication (jaw bone necrosis) so this must be weighed into the risk-to-benefit ratio for each individual.
The bottomline: If your physician has already placed you on this medication for osteoporosis or is considering doing so, this may decrease your risk of developing an invasive breast cancer (by 30%). Nevertheless, eating a healthy ‘anti-cancer’ diet (lower fat, less red meat, less sugar, more fruits, vegetables and grain.), exercising, doing monthly self-breast exams and getting your yearly mammogram remain the most important breast health recommendations, at this time.