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Ann Oncol. 2006 Oct;17(10):1512-6. Epub 2006 Aug 25.

Bisphosphonates and jaw osteonecrosis in patients with advanced breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Unit for Medical Care, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.



In recent years, several cases of mandibular necrosis associated with long-term use of bisphosphonates have been reported. The estimated incidence varies from 1% to 4.6%.


We conducted an observational study with the aim of determining the incidence of jaw osteonecrosis in advanced breast cancer patients with bone metastases under bisphosphonate treatment and to identify subjects at higher risk of developing this complication evaluating preclinical signs. We considered two groups of patients. All the patients complaining of odontostomatological symptoms underwent maxillary CT scan and maxillo-surgeon clinical examination. Asymptomatic patients were asked to perform a standard orthopantomography (OPT).


From February 2005 to October 2005, we observed five patients with jaw bone necrosis (6%). Diagnosis was radiological and clinical. In two patients a confirmatory biopsy was performed. In the same time interval, OPTs were collected from 76 asymptomatic patients. Three OPTs revealed radiological features of suspicious mandibular necrosis. Maxillary CT scan confirmed the presence of an osteolityc area with signs of periosteal reaction. All the three patients were referred to maxillo-surgeon and two out of three patients underwent mandibular biopsy, but histopathological results were not conclusive.


In our experience, the incidence of jaw bone necrosis in breast cancer patients seems to be higher than in other reports (6%). Radiological features of suspicious jaw necrosis were observed in three asymptomatic patients. We do not know how these findings should be considered. Anyway, standard OPT is a simple procedure, and may allow identification of periodontal conditions that in some way can predispose to the development of this uncommon event.

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