Drugs can prevent risk of breast cancer in women, experts say

February 16, 2016

Large international trials have shown that tamoxifen reduces the risk of oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer (the most common kind) by around a third in women at increased risk of the disease. But the treatment can cause side-effects - such as hot flushes, blood clots and in some cases womb cancer.

Professor Cuzick added: "Although drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene are licensed in the US, we know that neither is widely used, mainly due to concern around the potential side effects, and an inability to predict breast cancer risk accurately. We hope that in the future it may be possible to assess women's breast cancer risk as part of routine breast screening and offer personalised advice about risk reduction and medicines for preventing breast cancer."

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information, said: "Our scientists were behind some of the first trials showing the long term benefits of tamoxifen for preventing breast cancer in women with a greater than average risk of the disease. This research paved the way for the IBIS-II trial which is recruiting thousands of high-risk postmenopausal women to see if a new generation of breast cancer drugs, called aromatase inhibitors, could be even more effective and have fewer side effects.

"Being able to accurately predict breast cancer risk and who will respond to preventative drugs like these is a crucial step in ensuring women get the most suitable treatment."

Source: Cancer Research UK