Medication May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

By Contributing Writer - September 04, 2019

Post-menopausal women with an increased risk of breast cancer may want to take aromatase inhibitors to reduce their chances of developing the disease. That’s according to a new recommendation from the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF). Aromatase inhibitors now join the ranks of the chemoprevention drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene that the USPSTF recommends clinicians offer to high-risk women, which include those who are older, have a genetic mutation and/or a family history of breast cancer. 

Studies have shown that aromatase inhibitors cut the risk of breast cancer in half because they reduce estrogen levels in the body, making it more difficult for cancer to grow. However, only about 16% of women with an elevated risk of breast cancer take these drugs.

Dr. Richard Roetzheim

Dr. Richard Roetzheim is a physician with Moffitt Cancer Center. He studied the use of chemoprevention medication in post-menopausal women and found that a substantial portion of women with a higher risk of breast cancer decline the chemoprevention. Plus, he says 40% of the women who opt for the chemoprevention will not be able to last five years on the medication due to side effects, such as osteoporosis, hot flashes and joint pains.

The new recommendations, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, say the medications aren't prescribed or used often, but could be a new first line of defense against breast cancer. 

According to the review authors, mammograms are currently the main form of early detection, but medications to reduce the risk of breast cancer could provide an additional prevention option. However, the USPSTF does not advise women without an increased risk of breast cancer or without a current or previous breast cancer diagnosis take the drugs.


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