Researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute now suggest that women with a 98% chance of remaining free from breast cancer do something unthinkable. They want them to take a drug that can reduce their risk even further! I?m not kidding.
They?re trying to simplify the prediction of who is likely to get breast cancer. So, they came up with two criteria: women over the age of 55 who either have had a breast biopsy (no matter what it found) or had a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer. If this sounds like you, you have a whopping 2% risk of getting breast cancer in the next 5 years. These researchers think it?s time to reach for a drug to lower your risk even further.
The researchers recommend that if you?re in this 2% high-risk category, you take tamoxifen. But this drug has serious side effects. While tamoxifen blocks estrogen in breast cells, it often increases estrogen in other parts of the body. In fact, tamoxifen can significantly increase your risk for endometrial cancer. Unfortunately, the women who get endometrial cancer and have taken tamoxifen had a poor prognosis.
This drug has other side effects. Some women who take tamoxifen experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness and discharge. And occasionally they even experience blood clots.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) doesn?t agree with these researchers. NCI says that healthy women over the age of 60 who take tamoxifen to protect against breast cancer are more likely to be hurt than helped. Here?s why:
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Researchers recently finished a five-year Italian study with over 5,400 women. They found a significant increase in triglycerides and vascular disease in women on tamoxifen.
Instead of taking a drug that does more damage, it makes more sense to take steps that can have a positive effect on your health. I?ve written many articles on the subject available on-line at no cost to newsletter subscribers. Read them before you talk with your doctor about taking tamoxifen. And if you must take a drug to battle breast cancer, I?ll give you a better option in next week?s alert.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Austin, Steve, ND, and Cathy Hitchcock, MSW. "Breast Cancer: What you should know (but may not be told) about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment," Prima Publishing, 1994.
UCLA Medical Center (2007, November 14). Simpler Way To Assess Breast Cancer Risk Found. ScienceDaily, Retrieved November 14, 2007.
Veronesi, U., et al. "Prevention of breast cancer with tamoxifen: preliminary findings from the Italian randomised trial among hysterectomised women," The Lancet, vol. 352, July 11, 1988.