Osteoporosis Treatment Causes Cancer

Thursday, July 26, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 8 Comments

As I was reading important updates from a medical newsletter, I saw one in particular that caught my attention: it was recently discovered that a specific osteoporosis treatment causes cancer, as revealed in a calcitonin document from the European Medicines Agency. The news was released just four days ago, making this an update that even your doctor may not be aware of (for now).

osteoporosis and milk

NOTE: To avoid osteoporosis, drink milk early on. Encourage your children to drink milk, too. If you don’t like the taste of milk, you can go for yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products. But if you are already receiving treatment for osteoporosis, this is something you might want to read. One treatment currently being used for osteoporosis has recently been discovered to increase cancer risk.

The treatment is calcitonin, which is available as a nasal spray. The withdrawal of calcitonin nasal spray – indicated as a treatment in osteoporosis – from the market is being lobbied in Europe after it was discovered to increase the risk for cancer.

Osteoporosis Treatment That Causes Cancer

Before you drop all your osteoporosis drugs, please read the details of the medical update below. Feel free to ask your doctor regarding this development, in case you are currently using a calcitonin nasal spray as an osteoporosis treatment.

  • Calcitonin nasal spray as an osteoporosis treatment is no longer advised as it causes cancer. Currently, the calcitonin nasal sprays being marketed abroad don’t even have warnings on the package as to how much calcitonin should be used. There is no information on product inserts that state the increased cancer risk upon using these nasal sprays. (Just like calcitonin, antioxidants - which help prevent cancer - may actually promote tumor growth IF you already have cancer.)
  • The European Medicines Agency reported that calcitonin nasal sprays cause cancer only when they are used for a long period of time. They recommend that calcitonin be used only for a short period, and only in three indications: acute bone loss due to immobility, Paget’s disease, and high levels of calcium in the blood due to cancer.
  • Calcitonin is an osteoporosis treatment that causes cancer – many types of cancer, that is. As you may have noticed, I have not specified what type of cancer calcitonin nasal sprays cause because they can increase the risk for several types of cancer. Although calcitonin can help people with osteoporosis, the risks are much greater than the benefits. (Speaking of cancer, did you know that snoring increases cancer death risk?)
  • The studies that revolved around how calcitonin as an osteoporosis treatment causes cancer were conducted by the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. This committee belongs to European Medicines Agency (EMA) as well. Their calcitonin and cancer studies included data gleaned from randomized controlled studies (which provide the best evidence), safety trials, pharmaceutical companies, studies on the unlicensed prescription of calcitonin, and cancer trials.
  • Calcitonin may still be used as injection or infusion – but not as nasal sprays. Calcitonin nasal sprays are used only as osteoporosis treatment; given that they cause cancer, it was recommended that the nasal spray be removed from the market. Injections and infusions may be used for one to three months at the most.

Speaking of cancer, CanShare – an organization for cancer warriors – is about to get their very own website! I am excited by this project and I hope the website is finished soon.

Calcitonin is not the only osteoporosis treatment that causes cancer. However, there are guidelines to help ensure that medical treatment of osteoporosis is geared towards bone health, not cancer. But in the case of calcitonin nasal sprays, the benefits were completely outranked by the risks – and it was time for EMA to inform the public and release their recommendations to medical societies. If you have loved ones currently being treated for osteoporosis, please share this article with them. Feel free to post it on Facebook and participate in the information dissemination to help prevent cancer. Pass it forward!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and a cat welfare column in The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene. Add her to your circles.

8 comments:

  1. Hello there,

    My mother takes calcitonin nasal spray, not for osteoporosis, but for Paget's disease and she's been taking it for 1 year.

    It is very disturbing to know that a doctor would write such a misleading blog! I believe that you're not being ethical in your communication, not to your readers at least! I read the EMA-CHMP press release and the communication is very clear below:

    Taking into account the limited efficacy of calcitonin when used to treat post-menopausal osteoporosis to reduce the risk of vertebral fractures, the CHMP concluded that the benefits of calcitonin-containing medicines did not outweigh their risks in this indication.
    As the nasal spray is ONLY used in osteoporosis (in Europe), the CHMP recommended that this formulation be withdrawn.

    Regards,
    SAS

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, SAS. Thanks for your comment. But this blog post is far from unethical.

    I hope you did read the bullets - they clearly stated that (and I shall repeat for your sake my readers' as well):

    1. Calcitonin nasal spray AS AN OSTEOPOROSIS TREATMENT is no longer advised as it causes cancer.
    2. The European Medicines Agency reported that calcitonin nasal sprays cause cancer only when they are used for a long period of time. THEY RECOMMEND THAT CALCITONIN BE USED ONLY FOR A SHORT PERIOD, AND ONLY IN THREE INDICATIONS: ACUTE BONE LOSS DUE TO IMMOBILITY, PAGET'S DISEASE, AND HIGH LEVELS OF CALCIUM IN THE BLOOD DUE TO CANCER.

    The above are clear and repeat the recommendations by EMA. So, this blog is far from being misleading - it has followed EMA's recommendations.

    But thanks for bringing that up. I have always wanted to have the chance to clarify the value of the articles here. Finally, I get my chance. :) Good day and happy reading!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cancer researcher in the USDecember 18, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    How can you say without qualifications that calcitonin causes cancer? It may increase the risk (and 0.7% increased risk is not very convincing) but it does not cause cancer-- it's not benz-a-pyrene or ultraviolet radiation. And there are published papers shopwing that calcitonin halts prliferation of cancer cells, and also inhibits phosphorylation of ERK, a major driver of cancer.
    Also I saw that the EMA didn't list a single published study. I tend not to believe unpublished studies. If the data are good, the studies are published.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was on that horrible junk! !! I was also on FORTEO injections for 2 yrs, that is worse than chemotherapy Tx !! also fosmax, and actonel , I have so many health issues now because of all this crap !!! These Doctors and Drug Companies should give them to themselves and their families before using patients as their guinea pigs !!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. In fairness to drug companies and my fellow doctors, they do try. Drugs continue to help us when we're in pain and when we're sick. It's just that the serious side effects sometimes appear only after they've been used for a long period of time.

    And as is the case with anything else we drink and eat, we learn to weigh the risks versus the benefits. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, cancer researcher in the U.S.! Thanks for dropping by.

    Calcitonin use can increase the risk for cancer especially if used without due prudence (if used too long or for the wrong reasons, the risk outweighs the benefit). Also, you were wrong about the absence of published studies. I already provided the link to their studies above; do take the time to review the blog post and click the links in it.

    Another thing: Just because calcitonin can prevent cancer doesn't mean it has no propensity to cause it. Remember that radiation and chemo drugs can also cure cancer, in the same way they can cause it! :)

    Thank you for dropping by! I'm so sorry for replying just now; I never received a notification via email and I just saw your comment buried under about a hundred spam comments. Sigh. I'll make sure only Google users can leave a comment to prevent spam from now on.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Stef dela Cruz,
    I am from Slovakia – Europe, and these days I am mourning, because my mum is dead. She died of cancer – a tumor in her lungs killed her. Although she suffered from asthma for a long period and she had to take corticoids her lungs were OK. Ten years ago as a treatment for osteoporosis she took kalcitonin spray and then about 6 years ago again as it helped her very much.
    A year ago she wanted her doctor to prescribe calcitonin again as her bones started hurting deadly.
    Her doctor only announced her that it was not possible as it was not distributed. He prescribed pills bonviva, but pain was worse and worse and my dear mother had to go to hospital and they found out that she had cancer – the last 4th stage and metastases in her lungs,bones, liver,....
    Thank you for your blog.
    Yours sincerely,
    Anna

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, Anicka. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom's death. I can only imagine how it is to walk in your shoes and I know nothing I say will ever take away that pain.

    On a tangential note, since you are grieving right now, I would like to share a blog post with you. It's about grief workshops and there might be some in your area.

    I wanted to tell you about it because even our own friends and family can say the darnedest things when we lose someone close to us. I hope it helps you in any way.

    And thank you, Anicka, for dropping by. It's nice to hear from someone in Europe! :)

    ReplyDelete

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