Rx to Prevent Bone Loss May Have Other Benefits

Bisphosphonates reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Bisphosphonates are a class of medications commonly used to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Now, it seems these medications might have an additional benefit: protection against certain cancers.

Past research has found an association between taking bisphosphonates and a decreased risk of colon and breast cancer in women.

A recently released study found that women who took bisphosphonates for more than one year had a significantly lower risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) than women who did not take the medications.

"Ask your doctor how to lower your risk for osteoporosis."

Gad Rennert, MD, PhD, from the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, was the lead author of this research publication.

Medical records were reviewed for postmenopausal women diagnosed with cancer of the reproductive organs who participated in The Cancer in the Ovary and Uterus Study.

Dr. Rennert and team identified 424 patients who had ovarian cancer or endometrial cancer. Postmenopausal women without cancer, but of similar age, ethnicity and area of residence, were recruited to serve as controls (comparisons) for the study.

The researchers collected data that included the women's family history of cancer, amount of fruits and vegetables eaten daily, body weight, ethnicity and sports activities.

These researchers also reviewed pharmacy records to collect information on the women's prescription medications, including the use of bisphosphonates and statins, a class of medications used to lower cholesterol.

Fosamax (alendronate) and Actonel (risedronate) are two medications classified as bisphosphonates. Two examples of statin medications are Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin).

More women in the control group (22 to 23 percent) took bisphosphonates for more than one year than women diagnosed with ovarian cancer (13 percent) or women with endometrial cancer (9.7 percent).

The researchers found that women who took bisphosphonates for more than one year had a 51 percent lower chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer than women who did not take the medications.

Women who took bisphosphonates for more than a year had a 61 percent lower chance of being diagnosed with endometrial cancer than women who did not take bisphosphonates.

More women diagnosed with endometrial cancer were obese than the women in the control group. Fewer women with endometrial cancer participated in sports activities, ate five or more vegetables a day or took hormone therapy in menopause than women in the control group.

The women with ovarian cancer were an average age of 65, while the controls were an average age of 68.

Statin use for more than one year was more common in the controls than in the women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

One research limitation reported by the authors was that risk factors, such as family history of cancer, fruit and vegetable consumption and sports activities were reported by the participants and may not have been completely accurate.

The study authors cautioned that “… it cannot be excluded that unknown confounding factors, associated with healthy behavior, are associated with both bisphosphonate use and lower gynecological cancer risk."

These authors concluded, "Overall, these data provide evidence that bisphosphonate use, with or without statin use, may be associated with prevention of endometrial and ovarian cancers."

This study was published in the May issue of Gynecologic Oncology.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 8, 2014
Last Updated:
May 8, 2014