Bone Loss Medication May Lower Ovarian Cancer Risk

In 2022, it’s estimated that nearly 20,000 Americans will receive a new ovarian cancer diagnosis, while nearly 13,000 will die from it. Across all stages, the five-year survival rate for those with the disease is just under 50%, and a diagnosis is more apt to come after the cancer has spread. However, a new study has found that a drug often given to osteoporosis patients may help lower the risk of developing this deadly cancer.

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Researchers from the University of Queensland looked at medications taken by more than 50,000 women over 50 to determine if any were linked with ovarian cancer risk. They learned that taking medication used to prevent bone loss, nitrogen-based bisphosphonates, was linked with a lower incidence of ovarian cancer. Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the findings could help scientists further understand the disease.

Dr. Susan Jordan, study co-author and associate professor of epidemiology, says, “Earlier studies have found medicines used to treat other diseases may be useful in preventing cancer, prompting this investigation into bisphosphonates.

“This study may help inform medicine choice for women with osteoporosis and suggest areas for further research to better understand how ovarian cancer develops.”

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The findings indicated that the benefit may depend on the disease subtype. There was a 50% lower risk of endometrioid cancers, as well as a 16% lower risk for serous ovarian cancers, but there was no impact on mucinous or clear cell histotypes. The team says further research is needed to understand why these differences were found.

It’s also unclear why bisphosphonates would be linked with ovarian cancer.

Karen Tuesley, first author and PhD candidate, says, “We don’t yet know why these medicines may lower the risk of ovarian cancer in women, but previous studies have shown that nitrogen-based bisphosphonates can stop the disease spreading in laboratory grown cells.”

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The team says further validation of their findings is also needed.

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