Pre-emptive drug could prevent breast cancer
16:03 14 March 2011 by Andy Coghlan
For some healthy women under 55, the gamble of taking breast cancer drug tamoxifen – which can have serious side effects – could be worth the risk.
Although tamoxifen can raise the risk of womb cancer, heart attack and stroke, an analysis of data from four clinical trials of tamoxifen, involving 1.5 million women, concludes that there is a window in which taking the drug to prevent breast cancer should be considered, says Peter Alperin of Archimedes, a healthcare consultancy in San Francisco.
Women most likely to benefit are those aged 50 to 55 who are judged to have a risk of developing breast cancer within five years that is more than 66 per cent higher than normal, he says. For every 1000 women treated, Alperin claims tamoxifen could prevent 29 cases and nine deaths, while ultimately saving money for health providers.
"We would caution against its use except in those at high risk because one would want the benefits to substantially outweigh the harms," says Peter Sasieni, at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London.
Journal reference: Cancer, DOI: 10.1002/cncr.25926
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