Taking inhaled corticosteroids may lower the risk of lung cancer among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a study says.
Actually the inhaled corticosteroids are medications that are approved for use in the United States for tackling asthma symptoms.
How inhaled corticosteroids work in asthma is still not fully understood; but they have been shown to reduce inflammation in the airways thereby improving symptoms associated with the disease.
Corticosteroids are thought to suppress the body's production of substances that trigger inflammation.
The study conducted by the University of Washington suggests people who took at least 1,200 micrograms per day of inhaled corticosteroids had a 61% lower risk of developing lung cancer than non-users.
Researchers say inflammation in the lungs is thought to play an important role in both COPD and lung cancer, and the results suggest that daily use of inhaled corticosteroids may help fight inflammation and prevent the progression from COPD to lung cancer.
"Tobacco smoke is a well-recognized stimulant of systemic and local inflammation, and the role of inflammation in the causal pathway for both lung cancer and COPD has been suggested," says researcher David H.
Smoking is a primary cause of COPD, which includes two inflammatory lung diseases that interfere with breathing: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. An estimated 11 million adults suffer from COPD.
Researchers followed a group of more than 10,000 mostly older male U.S. veterans with COPD who were treated in Veterans Affairs primary care clinics from 1996 to 2001. Of these, 517 were regular users of inhaled corticosteroids as determined by records of pharmacy refills and were included in the study's analysis.
The results, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, suggested that compared with non-users of corticosteroids, those who took 1,200 micrograms or more per day of inhaled corticosteroids were 61% less likely to develop lung cancer.
The researchers note that this is an observational study that "cannot conclude that [inhaled corticosteroids] reduce lung cancer" and that the results need confirmation.
They also say no drugs have been clinically proven to prevent lung cancer among those at risk, but several are under investigation.
If further larger studies confirm these results, they say high doses of inhaled corticosteroids may play a potential role in reducing the risk of lung cancer among people with COPD.
Previous studies have shown inhaled corticosteroids reduce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein and reduce airway inflammation.