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Few Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer Take Tamoxifen
Date:2/11/2010

Study finds less than 1% use it as preventative; experts say drug has gotten 'bad rap'

THURSDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Only a tiny fraction of women at high risk of developing breast cancer take tamoxifen to prevent the disease.

This news comes despite the fact that experts have known since 1998 that tamoxifen can cut the risk of developing breast cancer by almost 50 percent.

"This is not a surprise to me," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La., which was one of the sites enrolling women for the trial that led to the approval of using tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention.

"The drug is actually a very fine drug for breast cancer prevention, but it has gotten a bad rap," Brooks continued. "I don't think we have changed the paradigm of the fact that we can predict which women are at increased risk for this disease and we can do something to lower their risk short of prophylactic mastectomy, but I don't think the medical profession has been able to communicate well enough to women so that they can understand that taking medicine can lower their risk of cancer."

V. Craig Jordan, scientific director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University, who is considered the "father" of tamoxifen, agreed: "There has been so much negative publicity about tamoxifen. No good information is being provided. That doesn't help."

While people are relatively comfortable with the notion that blood pressure and cholesterol drugs can lower the risk of heart problems in people who feel perfectly healthy, this is still an alien concept in the cancer world, Brooks said.

In addition to being used to treat breast tumors, tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is approved to prevent breast cancer recurrences and to prevent tumors in women who have not yet been diagnosed with the disease.

These authors looked at data from 2000 and 200
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