Tamoxifen Can Help Stave Off Breast Cancer

Published Online: Sunday, January 1, 2006

Women at high risk for developing breast cancer who take tamoxifen can reduce their long-term risk of developing the disease, according to the results of a recent study. Researchers found that women who took the drug for up to 5 years were ~43% less likely to get breast cancer than those who took a placebo.

The study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, involved 13,388 women. The women either were aged >60 years or were between the ages of 35 and 59 years and at high risk (ie, having an immediate relative with breast cancer). They were divided into 2 groups. Of the women who took tamoxifen, only 145 developed breast cancer since the start of the study, compared with 250 women in the placebo group.

Although a number of medicines exist that help to fight breast cancer once it has developed, only tamoxifen has US approval to help prevent it in high-risk women. The data also showed that women taking the drug experienced fewer broken bones than those taking the placebo—80 women compared with 116, respectively (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, November 15, 2005).

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