A recent rise in corticosteroid use has been linked to an increased risk for lung squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Now, researchers report that patients already suffering from SCC in addition to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma did experience lower risk for lung SCC through corticosteroid use. The study was published in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine and titled: “The use of corticosteroids in patients with COPD or asthma does not decrease lung squamous cell carcinoma”.
The goal of the study was to assess the relationship between inhaled or oral corticosteroid use and the risk of lung SCC. For that purpose, researchers analyzed 793 people suffering from SCC who were also diagnosed with COPD or asthma. Patients were administered a low or a high dose of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), or a low or high dose of oral corticosteroids (OCS). For each patient with lung SCC, researchers recruited four control patients (a total of 3,172) of the same age and gender, who had a similar COPD or asthma diagnosis.
The team observed a 2.18 odds ratio (OR: where the higher the value, the greater is the association) for SCC development in men with a high ICS dose, and a 1.77 OR in men receiving a low ICS dose. Regarding oral corticosteroids doses, results were of a 1.55 OR for SCC development in men taking the high dose, and a 1.46 OR in men who received the low dose. Women did not show significant associations with ICS or OCS dose and SCC risk.
All groups were examined for correlations between SCC and dose increase, with men taking a high dose of ICS and OCS having an 8.08 OR for developing SCC, a 4.49 OR when taking ICS alone, and a 3.54 OR when OCS was administered alone. In women, high doses of OCS were linked to a 6.72 OR.
The team concluded that corticosteroids had no impact in decreasing SCC risk in patients with asthma or COPD, and that the recent dose increase in corticosteroids-based therapies was indeed linked to SCC development.
“The use of corticosteroids in patients with asthma and COPD was associated with lung [squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)], especially in men,” noted the study’s lead author Dr. Zhi Hong Jian from Institute of Public Health, at Chung Shan Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, in a news release. “Recent dose increase in corticosteroids was associated with SCC. Lung cancer screening is necessary when treatment goals for asthma or COPD are not being met or when patients are not responding to current therapy.”