BACKGROUND: Preclinical studies have demonstrated that propranolol inhibits several pathways involved in breast cancer progression and metastasis. We investigated whether breast cancer patients who used propranolol, or other non-selective beta-blockers, had reduced breast cancer-specific or all-cause mortality in eight European cohorts.
METHODS: Incident breast cancer patients were identified from eight cancer registries and compiled through the European Cancer Pharmacoepidemiology Network. Propranolol and non-selective beta-blocker use was ascertained for each patient. Breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality were available for five and eight cohorts, respectively. Cox regression models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for cancer-specific and all-cause mortality by propranolol and non-selective beta-blocker use. HRs were pooled across cohorts using meta-analysis techniques. Dose-response analyses by number of prescriptions were also performed. Analyses were repeated investigating propranolol use before cancer diagnosis.
RESULTS: The combined study population included 55,252 and 133,251 breast cancer patients in the analysis of breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality respectively. Overall, there was no association between propranolol use after diagnosis of breast cancer and breast cancer-specific or all-cause mortality (fully adjusted HR = 0.94, 95% CI, 0.77, 1.16 and HR = 1.09, 95% CI, 0.93, 1.28, respectively). There was little evidence of a dose-response relationship. There was also no association between propranolol use before breast cancer diagnosis and breast cancer-specific or all-cause mortality (fully adjusted HR = 1.03, 95% CI, 0.86, 1.22 and HR = 1.02, 95% CI, 0.94, 1.10, respectively). Similar null associations were observed for non-selective beta-blockers.
CONCLUSIONS: In this large pooled analysis of breast cancer patients, use of propranolol or non-selective beta-blockers was not associated with improved survival.