Drug Thought to Prevent Breast Cancer Debunked
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A study has shown that osteoporosis drugs may not protect women from developing breast cancer as previously believed.
A University of California, San Francisco study published Aug. 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine, says that earlier studies of women taking osteoporosis combating drugs had lower incidence of breast cancer and that those drugs, known as bisphosphonates, were believed to offer protection against breast cancer.
But in two randomized clinical trials of drugs sold under brand names Fosamax and Reclast, neither drug protected women from getting cancer, the study shows.
Instead, researchers are now saying a third factor – low estrogen – is where the health impact lies. Women with low estrogen have weakened bones, so that those being prescribed drugs to strengthen bones are usually also at lower risk for breast cancer.
“They may have seen a lower risk of breast cancer in women using bisphosphonates in the earlier observational studies because those women had a lower risk of breast cancer to begin with,” said Trisha Hue, PhD and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
Dr. Steven Cummings, co-author and UCSF professor of medicine emeritus, said, “Post-menopausal women should continue taking these drugs for the prevention of fractures, but they should not use bisphosphonates for the prevention of primary breast cancer.”
The data analyzed in the study came from two double blind, placebo controlled clinical trials. In both trials, women who received bisphosphonates had a slightly higher but statistically non-significant incidence of breast cancer.
Findings such as this do not surprise Dr. Kimberly Volk, RN, ND, although her approach to treating the condition is pre-emptive.
“When I approach the subject, we use supplements to support the osteoporosis vs. the medication,” Volk said, adding, “Actually we do have a good success rate, and we also treat this through nutrition.”
Volk said that to keep bones healthy patients should do weight-bearing exercise.
“And you want to catch it early, vs. when the screening is done. Such as if they have osteoporosis in their family history, you are looking at doing preventative work instead of trying to correct it once they are diagnosed.”