WEDNESDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Beta blockers -- safe, inexpensive drugs that have been used for decades by millions of people -- may eventually have a role in fighting breast cancer, according to two new studies.
One study suggests that women who are already taking beta blockers to lower blood pressure tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier stage of the disease and to have better survival odds.
The second study finds that women who took a beta blocker while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer had a lower risk of recurrence.
Both studies, whose authors declared no conflicts of interest, were released online May 31 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
While the idea of dispensing a cheap drug with a good safety profile to women to combat breast cancer is enticing, these findings are hardly enough to recommend prescribing beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) for breast cancer, said an expert.
"These studies are hypothesis generating. I don't think they are definitive by any means in terms of what physicians and patients should go out and do tomorrow," said Dr. Lori Goldstein, director of the Breast Evaluation Center at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
On the other hand, women with breast cancer who are already taking this class of drugs need not worry that "it's going to jeopardize the care of their cancer," said Dr. Amal Melhem-Bertrandt, lead author of the second study.
Beta blockers basically work by damping down the effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine, both stress hormones.
These stress pathways may also be involved in the spread of breast cancer.
"There's a lot of literature out there that people under a lot of stress may have a higher incidence of their breast cancer recurring, meaning that the cancer may come back when th
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