Jama LogoOral bisphosphonates are drugs which may be recommended to avoid the loss of bone mass. Previously this medication was associated to esophageal cancer. According to a latest study, there is no significant correlation between oral bisphosphonates and esophageal or gastric cancer.

It was revealed that bisphosphonates are usually prescribed to prevent or treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Since recent years, employment of these drugs have been boosted considerably in the United States and other Western populations. While conducting the study, Chris R. Cardwell, Ph.D., of Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom, and colleagues examined the medical data from more than 80,000 patients in the United Kingdom.

Scientists elucidate, “Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) is a known adverse effect of bisphosphonate use, and recent reports suggest a link between bisphosphonate use and esophageal cancer, but this has not been robustly investigated. Large studies with appropriate comparison groups, adequate follow-up, robust characterization of bisphosphonate exposure, and information on relevant confounders are required to determine whether bisphosphonates increase esophageal cancer risk.”

For ascertaining the relation between bisphosphonate use and esophageal cancer, the authors scrutinized data provided by the UK General Practice Research Database. It contained information about patients treated with oral bisphosphonates and about a group of patients not treated with these drugs. This group was considered as the control cohort. The data was gathered from January 1996 and December 2006.

Experts quote, “In conclusion, in the UK GPRD patient population we found no evidence for a substantially increased risk of esophageal (or gastric) cancer in persons using oral bisphosphonates. These drugs should not be withheld, on the basis of possible esophageal cancer risk, from patients with a genuine clinical indication for their use.”

The follow-up time was an average of 4.5 years in the bisphosphonate and 4.4 years in the control cohorts. After not including patients with less than 6 months follow-up, around 41,826 members were in each group. It was mentioned that every group consisted 81 percent women and the average age was 70.0 years. With 116 esophageal or gastric cancer cases, 79 were esophageal that occurred in the bisphosphonate cohort. Additionally, from 115 in the control cohort 72 were esophageal.

On completion of the analysis, no variation in risk of esophageal and gastric cancer appeared with the use of bisphosphonate. The study was presumed after combining the cohorts for any bisphosphonate use or risk of esophageal cancer only. Experts enlighten that risk of esophageal or gastric cancer may not elevate due to the duration of bisphosphonate intake.

The study is published in the August 11 issue of JAMA.