Inhaled Steroids Cut COPD Patients' Lung Cancer Risk

The drugs may lower airway inflammation, reduce genetic errors, researchers say

FRIDAY, April 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Regular use of high-dose inhaled corticosteroids can reduce the risk of lung cancer in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a U.S. study finds.

The study included 10,474 older male veterans with COPD, a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis that increases the risk of lung cancer. Among the study participants, 517 were regular users of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).

Over four years, 402 of almost 10,000 non-users of ICS developed lung cancer, compared with 16 of 298 patients who used less than 1,200 micrograms of ICS per day, and five of 219 patients who used more than 1,200 micrograms of ICS per day.

The researchers calculated that among users of more than 1,200 micrograms of ICS per day, the relative risk of lung cancer was lowered by 61 percent, compared to a 13 percent increase for patients who used less than 1,200 micrograms of ICS a day.

The researchers said that higher doses of ICS may help lower lung cancer in COPD patients risk by reducing such factors as local airway inflammation, cell turnover, and the propagation of genetic errors.

The findings are published in the April issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In 2004, an estimated 11 million adults in the United States had COPD. Smoking is the primary cause of COPD.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about COPD.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, April 2, 2007
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