Increased risk of esophageal cancer not linked to oral bisphosphonate

Bisphosphonate use is not associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, according to a study published in JAMA (2010 Aug 11;304(6):657-63).

In the study, designed to investigate the association between bisphosphonate use and esophageal cancer, researchers used data from the UK General Practice Research Database of patients treated with oral bisphosponates along with a group of patients not treated with these drugs.

Analysis of the incidence of esophageal and gastric cancers among the bisphosphonate and control groups found no difference in risk of these cancers combined between the cohorts for any bisphosphonate use or risk of esophageal cancer only. Specifically, with an equal number of patients in both study groups, researchers found that 116 esophageal or gastric cancers occurred in the bisphosphonate cohort compared with 115 in the control group. In addition, researchers reported that there was no difference in the risk of esophageal or gastric cancer by duration of bisphosphonate intake.

“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,” the authors concluded. “These drugs should not be withheld, on the basis of possible esophageal cancer risk, from patients with a genuine clinical indication for their use.”

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