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Breast Cancer Drug Tamoxifen Saves Lives, Medical Costs: Study
Date:3/14/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- For certain women at increased risk of breast cancer, tamoxifen can protect against the disease for a decade after treatment ends, save lives and reduce medical costs, new research suggests.

For years, women considered at increased risk of breast cancer have taken tamoxifen as a preventive measure. But previous cost-effectiveness research has only accounted for breast cancer risk reduction while it is being taken, not after treatment ends.

This new study shows that protection persists for 10 years after treatment concludes.

"Whether a woman who meets these criteria should take tamoxifen is a personal decision that should be made with her doctor," said researcher Joyce Noah-Vanhoucke, a scientist at Archimedes Inc., an independent health-care modeling organization in San Francisco.

For the study, published online March 14 in the journal Cancer, Noah-Vanhoucke and her colleagues constructed a computer model to simulate a population of postmenopausal women under age 55 in a virtual clinical trial that compared five years of tamoxifen treatment with no treatment.

The researchers assessed the effects tamoxifen, known as a chemopreventative, would have on a woman's risk of breast cancer for 10 years after that treatment ended.

Because tamoxifen therapy interferes with estrogenic activity, it is effective against breast cancers known as estrogen receptor-positive, which need estrogen to grow. In the model, 78 percent of breast cancers were ER-positive, reflecting real life.

Women in the model had a breast cancer risk score of 1.66 percent or higher as computed by the Gail model, a commonly used risk-assessment tool. A score of 1.66 or more is termed high-risk.

For instance, Noah-Vanhoucke said, a 54-year-old childless woman who underwent menopause at age 52, started menstruating at age 15 and had two br
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