Recent use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) in spinal arthrodesis is not associated with increased cancer risk, according to research published in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Mick P. Kelly, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis to examine the incidence of cancer in 467,916 Medicare patients undergoing spinal arthrodesis from 2005 to 2010. The risk of cancer was assessed for patients exposed to BMP (average follow-up duration, 2.85 years) and for a control group (average follow-up duration, 2.94 years).

The researchers found that the relative risk of developing cancer was 0.938 after BMP exposure (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.913 to 0.964). In the BMP and control groups, 5.9 and 6.5 percent of patients, respectively, developed an invasive cancer.

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In males the relative risk of developing cancer after BMP exposure was 0.98 (95 percent CI, 0.94 to 1.02), while in females the relative risk was 0.93 (95 percent CI, 0.90 to 0.97). For each type of cancer except pancreatic cancer, higher incidence was seen in the control group.

“Recent clinical use of BMP was not associated with a detectable increase in the risk of cancer within a mean 2.9-year time window,” the authors write.

One or more authors received payments or services from a third party in support of this work; one or more authors disclosed ties to an entity in the biomedical arena.


  1. Kelly, Mick P., BS, et al. “Cancer Risk from Bone Morphogenetic Protein Exposure in Spinal Arthrodesis.” The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. September 2014.