TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Taking the breast cancer drug tamoxifen for the recommended five years protects women from breast cancer recurrence better than a two-year course of the drug and it also shields some women from cardiovascular disease, new research finds.
The cancer protection and heart-disease risk reduction were noted 15 years after starting treatment, according to the study published online March 21 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The findings may surprise many women on the medication, said Allan Hackshaw, deputy director of Cancer Research and the University College London Cancer Trials Center. "I think many women don't realize the benefits [reduced cancer recurrence] last a long time if they can complete the five-year course, and particularly also the CV [cardiovascular] disease benefit," he said.
Hackshaw and his colleagues studied follow-up data for 3,449 participants in the Cancer Research UK "Over 50s" trial comparing tamoxifen use of five years and two years by women with early beast cancer. The women were between 50 and 81 at the start.
During the initial study period, 1987 to 1997, the women took 20 milligrams of tamoxifen a day for two years. After that, they were assigned randomly to stop taking the drug or to continue taking tamoxifen for three more years, if they were recurrence-free.
The researchers then tracked cancer recurrences, new tumors, death and cardiovascular events through April 2010.
There were 1,103 recurrences, 755 deaths from breast cancer, 621 cardiovascular events and 236 deaths from cardiovascular events. They found that 15 years after the women first began taking tamoxifen, for every 100 who took it for five years, nearly six fewer women suffered a recurrence compared to those on the two-year regimen.
The longer treatment reduced the risk of breast cancer developing in the opposite bre
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