Breast cancer drugs for healthy women

Source: The Telegraph

Millions of healthy women should be given drugs with potentially serious side-effects to prevent them developing breast cancer, a landmark study has recommended.

Up to one in 10 women could benefit from anti-cancer treatments such as tamoxifen even before they show signs of the disease, according to an international panel of experts.

But there are concerns the drug could have side-effects, such as blood clots and, in some cases, womb cancer.

In a paper published today in The Lancet Oncology, the specialists call for a radical new approach to identifying and treating patients who are at risk.

Breast cancer kills 12,000 people in Britain every year and is the second-biggest cause of death among women, after lung cancer. More than 46,000 new cases are diagnosed in Britain each year.

The latest study suggested that breast cancer could be tackled using the same mass prevention approach that doctors used to reduce heart disease, under which millions of patients have been prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol.

Among the most widely prescribed cancer drugs is tamoxifen. It works to reduce levels of oestrogen, which causes many breast cancers to grow.

The drug is not currently approved for use in Britain as a preventive treatment to stop healthy women developing cancer, although it is used in this way in America.

The report’s lead author, Prof Jack Cuzick, from Queen Mary, University of London, said doctors should be authorised to prescribe tamoxifen as a preventive therapy in Britain, even though the drug can have serious side effects.

He said: “There are trials ongoing looking at new drugs that may be more effective and less toxic – that is the future. For the present, there are clearly the five to 10 per cent of women who are at high enough risk that they really should consider this.”

International trials have shown that tamoxifen reduces the risk of the most common kind of breast cancer by about one third among women who are at increased risk of the disease.

More of the original article: Breast cancer drugs for healthy women

The above study is lead by Prof. Jack Cuzick from The Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine which is funded by these organizations.

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