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Tamoxifen Wards Off Breast Cancer's Return for More Than a Decade
Date:7/29/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Women who took the cancer-suppressing drug tamoxifen for five years after a breast cancer diagnosis were nearly 40 percent less likely to have the cancer return, and that protection lasted for more than a decade after they stopped taking the drug, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed the results of about 20 randomized controlled trials on a five-year course of tamoxifen vs. not taking the drug. The trials involved 21,000 women from a dozen countries around the world, including the United States, Europe, China and Japan.

Some 15 years after their diagnosis -- and 10 years after they stopped taking the drug -- women who took tamoxifen still had one-third lower risk of dying than women who didn't take it.

"It's a remarkable drug," said study author Dr. Christina Davies, a lead investigator with the Early Breast Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group, which was established some 25 years ago to conduct periodic reviews of research on breast cancer from around the world. "It has probably saved more lives than any other oncological drug ever."

Of 10,645 women who took tamoxifen, about 26 percent had a relapse at the 10-year-mark, compared to 40 percent who didn't take the medication. By 15 years, 33 percent of women who took the drug had their cancer return, compared to 46 percent who didn't.

The statistics were similar when it came to death rates. After a decade, about 25 percent of women who didn't take the drug had died compared to 18 percent of those who did take it; at 15 years, 33 percent who didn't take the drug died compared to 24 percent of those who took tamoxifen.

"They not only gained the benefits while they were taking the drug, but for many years afterward," Davies said.

The study is published in the July 28 online issue of The Lancet.

Tamoxifen has been widely used for more than 30 years t
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