Cheap drugs normally used to strengthen bone can cut deaths from breast cancer, research shows.

The data from 18,766 women, published in the Lancet, showed the drugs prevented secondary tumours growing in the bone.

The drugs are not currently available for this purpose on the NHS.

By the time a tumour is removed from the breast there is always a risk that tiny fragments have already spread.

Bone is the favourite second home of breast cancer where it can lie dormant for years.

Bone booster

Bisphosphonates are mainly used to prevent bone loss in osteoporosis.

It is thought they can effectively starve any cancerous cells that do spread to the bone to stop them growing.

Some women take them after a cancer has been detected in their bones.

But the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group, co-ordinated by the University of Oxford, analysed the impact of intervening earlier.

It analysed data from 26 separate trials of women who were given the drug for up to five years after a cancer was removed from their breast.

The results showed a 28% reduction in cancers emerging in the bone, but only in post-menopausal women.

Deaths were cut by 18% over the 10 years after they were first diagnosed.

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