Tamoxifen May Help Prevent Breast Cancer in High-Risk Women, Study Finds
Tamoxifen, the most widely prescribed drug for treating breast cancer, might prevent the disease in healthy women considered at high risk of developing the disease, according to a review of breast cancer prevention trials published in the medical journal the Lancet, the Reuters/Chicago Tribune reports. According to professor Jack Cuzick of the charity Cancer Research UK, the results combine data from more than 40,000 women using tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention and found that the drug may reduce by 38% the chances that women considered to have a high risk of developing breast cancer will get the disease, the Reuters/Tribune reports. The drug, which neutralizes the action of estrogen, which stimulates breast cancer growth, was also found to reduce new cancers in the opposite breast by 46% in women with tumors "sensitive" to estrogen that had already been treated for the disease. However, Cuzick said that more research is needed to reduce the side effects of the drug -- increased risk of blood clots and uterine cancer -- before it can prescribed as a preventative medication. "The evidence to date clearly shows that tamoxifen can reduce the risk of breast cancers stimulated by the hormone estrogen," Cuzick said, adding that "it is crucial that we follow all the trials to their conclusions and find ways to reduce the side effects of tamoxifen before we can recommend that high-risk women take the drug to prevent breast cancer." Cuzick said that early data in a similar cancer prevention study "looks very promising"; the study involves a drug called raloxifene, which reduced by 64% the occurrence of breast cancer in a trial of 7,700 high risk women compared to the placebo treatment; raloxifene is produced by drug maker Eli Lilly under the name Evista. According to Cuzick, physicians are waiting for the results of a U.S. trial that directly compares the two drugs (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 2/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.