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Medications That Lower Breast Cancer Risk Carry Other Dangers
Date:9/14/2009

Analysis notes tamoxifen, raloxifene can up chances of other cancers, clots

MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Medications given to women at high risk for developing breast cancer do reduce their cancer risk, but the drugs carry other health risks, a new analysis suggests.

That was the conclusion of researchers who looked at numerous published studies, including randomized clinical trials and a head-to-head assessment of the medications used for risk reduction. Those include tamoxifen, raloxifene and tibolone. The third drug is not currently on the U.S. market but is available in other countries, and there is some research on its risk-reduction benefits.

"We found that the three drugs actually did reduce the risk for invasive breast cancer by 30 to 68 percent," said review author Dr. Heidi D. Nelson, a research professor at Oregon Health & Science University. The report is published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

While the medications provided similar reductions in breast cancer risk, each carries its own level of side effects. "They did differ on the harm side," Nelson said. "That's important to know."

The use of the drugs to reduce breast cancer risk in healthy, high-risk women is not as common, Nelson noted, as their use to prevent recurrence in women already diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. For instance, tamoxifen has been used for years to lower the chances of recurrence among breast cancer survivors. Recently, however, other researchers found tamoxifen only lowers the risk of a more common type of breast cancer, called ER-positive, while it raises the risk of developing ER-negative breast cancer, a more aggressive disease, in breast cancer survivors.

A similar story appears to be unfolding when the drugs are used for risk reduction in women who are cancer-free but at high risk of breast cancer. The women may be termed high risk due to ge
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