Video: Osteoporosis meds may cut breast cancer

  1. Closed captioning of: Osteoporosis meds may cut breast cancer

    >> pete williams in washington.

    >>> we have health news in the storm of a new study that shows a drug a lot of older women already take to protect against bone loss might also help protect against breast cancer . details tonight from our chief science correspondent robert bazell .

    >> reporter: it is very encouraging news for the millions of women taking medications.

    >> you're doing a good job of staying still.

    >> reporter: to prevent the bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. the major meeting of breast cancer researchers in san antonio . the scientists today released a study of the records of 154,000 women.

    >> we found women who were users had 32% fewer invasive breast cancers, which was statistically significant.

    >> reporter: experts point out the study is an observation only, and future control trials would be needed to definitely approve the association. patricia smith was one of the volunteers for the study group . the government's sponsored women's health initiative. she has several family members with breast cancer . she takes the bone drug, so she is thrilled with the news about breast cancer .

    >> it has always been a threat to my family, so anything i can do to prevent it is helpful.

    >> reporter: the scientists are not sure why the bone drugs might reduce breast cancer risks. one hypothesis is they decrease the blood flow tumors need to develop and spread. the

updated 12/10/2009 7:35:30 PM ET 2009-12-11T00:35:30

New results from a large women's health study suggest that bone-building drugs such as Fosamax and Actonel might help prevent breast cancer.

Women who already were taking these medicines when the study began were nearly one-third less likely to develop breast cancer over the next seven years. That's compared to women who were not on such pills.

The study by itself is not proof that these drugs can prevent cancer. More definitive studies should give a clearer picture in a year or two. Until then, doctors say women should only take these drugs if they have osteoporosis or other bone problems.

However, doctors are excited because it fits with other research last year that found one of these bisphosphonate drugs cut the chances that cancer would come back in women already treated for the disease.

"Now we're actually looking at this in the general population — healthy women who have never had breast cancer. And it looks like it's protective in those women as well," said Dr. Peter Ravdin of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"There's a strengthening story here," he said. "This is very promising."

The new results were presented Thursday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. They come from more than 151,000 participants in the Women's Health Initiative, a study known for revealing previously unrecognized risks from taking estrogen and progestin pills after menopause.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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