Steroids Lower Lung-Cancer Risk in Patients with COPD

Inhalers Can Reduce Risk by 30% Vs. Beta Agonists

A study by scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC) shows that the steroid inhalers used by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can also reduce their risk of lung cancer by up to 30%.

The researchers examined data spanning a decade from 39,676 adults with COPD, including 994 who were later diagnosed with lung cancer. They compared outcomes between patients who used inhaled steroids and those who used beta agonists.

Study results indicated that in patients with COPD who consistently used a steroid inhaler, the risk of developing lung cancer was 25% to 30% lower compared with people taking other treatments, according to the researchers.

Although beta agonists are the first choice of treatment for COPD, doctors often prescribe steroids for more severe cases, as these reduce the number of eosinophils in the lungs.

In the U.S., COPD is the third leading cause of death by disease. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with the disease, although millions more could have COPD without realizing it.

In Canada, more than 700,000 people have been diagnosed with COPD. The researchers say that their study underscores the importance of identifying which patients may be at highest risk for developing lung cancer and thus benefit most from inhaled-steroid therapy.

The limits of the study, recently published in European Respiratory Journal, include its reliance on administrative data and the fact that COPD diagnosis was based on prescription records alone. In their next stage of research, the UBC scientists intend to study how steroids reduce lung cancer risk in patients with COPD.

Source: University of British Columbia, May 28, 2019

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