Common drugs can reduce breast cancer risk

A FAMILY of common hormone treatments can significantly reduce the threat of breast cancer in women at risk from the disease, research has shown.

One of the drugs, tamoxifen, is widely used to treat breast cancer after surgery. The others, raloxifene, arzoxifene and lasofoxifene, are all primarily treatments for osteoporosis.

A study of 83,000 women showed that the drugs reduced breast cancer incidence by 38 per cent in those at risk.

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Researchers monitored the effect of taking the drugs for five years and then stopping treatment for a further five. After five years of treatment, the risk of breast cancer fell by 42 per cent. But a reduction of 25 per cent was also seen in women five years after they stopped the pills.

No effect was seen on numbers of deaths from breast cancer, or on cases of breast cancer not fuelled by oestrogen.

The drugs, known as selective oestrogen receptor modulators (serms) target oestrogen-sensitive molecules on cells. They can either block the hormone receptors or stimulate them.

Some, such as raloxifene, can have a stimulating effect on bones, while blocking oestrogen receptors in breast tissue.

Lead scientist Professor Jack Cuzick, from Queen Mary, University of London, reported in the Lancet medical journal, said: “These are very encouraging results and pave the way for more widespread use of these drugs in high-risk women.”