TUESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- People who take drugs called bisphosphonates to prevent bone loss may also reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by almost 60 percent compared to those not on the drugs, a new study suggests.
Bisphosphonates include such common drugs as Fosamax (alendronate), Boniva (ibandronate), Actonel (risedronate) and Reclast (zoledronic acid). These drugs work by increasing bone thickness, thereby reducing the risk of fractures, the researchers said.
In prior studies, bisphosphonates have already been shown to be associated with a reduced odds for breast cancer.
"These [new] findings are meaningful because they point to a possible protective effect of this class of drugs being relevant to prevention of many different cancers," said lead researcher Dr. Gad Rennert, from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Medicine and chairman of the department of community medicine and epidemiology at the Carmel Medical Center of Clalit Health Services in Haifa, Israel.
"This is [similar] to the effect that we and others have shown for [cholesterol-lowering] statins," he said, noting that "bisphosphonates and statins share the same metabolic pathway."
The results of the U.S. National Cancer Institute-supported study are published in the Feb. 14 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
For the study, Rennert's team collected data on almost 1,900 postmenopausal women who took part in the Molecular Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer study, which is a population-based trial in northern Israel.
The researchers found that taking bisphosphonates, mostly Fosamax, for at least a year was associated with a significant 59 percent reduction in relative risk for colorectal cancer.
"The magnitude of the reduced risk is less important because this is an association study; however, it is very significant a
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