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Monday, 9 August 2010

Asthma, Inhalers & Cancer

The story below about Asthma Inhalers and Prostate Cancer was in a number of media outlets and the press. This copy below is from the Daily Mail, which was a little longer than some others.

As you may gather the connection is substantially statistical. The nature of the biochemical aspect is a matter for discussion.

What occurs to me is what the contents of the inhalers are in chemical terms and can there be one particular or several interacting chemicals that produce this effect?

Again the reaction from AsthmaUK is worrying. 25% is a large fluke and needs looking at. Clearly because of the risks of severe asthma the balance may be to keep using the inhaler.

Moreover, those of us with wider interests know too well that issues described as “marginal” in many fields other than medicine can all too easily become catastrophic.

In the case of any chemical issue it is possible that a chemical that causes asthma may well have causal effects on other parts of the body.


Asthma inhalers 'increase the risk of prostate cancer'

Drugs used by thousands of men in Britain to treat asthma may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to research.

It shows men who regularly take inhaled steroids to keep their asthma under control are almost 40 per cent more likely than men without asthma to develop a tumour.

Those who regularly use another type of inhaler, a bronchodilator, to relieve wheezing are 36 per cent more at risk of the disease.

But the biggest danger appears to be among men with severe asthma who frequently need treatment with steroid tablets or injections.

Among this group, according to the study, the risk of cancer increases by up to 70 per cent.

Although the same research found even having asthma appears to increase the risk by around 25 per cent, it said the chances of a tumour are significantly higher in men taking medication.

Asthma sufferers using bronchodilators will usually have two types - one which provides instant relief from symptoms and another to use once or twice day to prevent them developing in the first place.

Cancer experts last night stressed findings were preliminary, from a small study, and needed to be confirmed by much bigger studies before any change in asthma drug use could be considered.

Dr Jodie Moffat, of Cancer Research UK, said: 'The results are quite weak and they could be a statistical fluke.

The researchers themselves note that further studies are needed.' And Dr Elaine Vickers, from Asthma UK, urged men with asthma not to stop taking medication on the basis of the results.

She said: 'This research suggests that there could be a weak association between asthma and prostate cancer risk. However, even if this is true, the association is marginal, and there is no reason for men with asthma to be concerned.'

The study was undertaken by a team of scientists in Melbourne, Australia. They decided to look at the link between asthma and prostate cancer because both arise from inflammation in the body.

The researchers studied 1,179 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and analysed how many had a history of asthma.

The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed just having asthma meant a 25 per cent increase in a man's chances of a tumour.

But if he was on medication, the risks were even higher.

The researchers admitted it was 'difficult to disentangle' the effects of asthma drugs from the result of just having the condition itself.

But they said the concerns raised by their findings should be investigated in bigger follow-up studies.

Around 5.2 million people in Britain have asthma. According to Asthma UK, it kills one person every seven hours and leaves 70,000 a year needing hospital treatment.

Nearly 32,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and 10,000 men die from it


Prostate cancer is something that can arise from several causes because of where the gland is in the body and the nature of its function. We would be wise not to be dismissive of any possibility.

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