Tamoxifen and Raloxifene Side Effects

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • Preventing deaths. Tamoxifen has long been hailed as a wonder drug for preventing recurrences of breast cancer. In the 1990s, studies showed that it could prevent the disease among women who are high-risk. Now, a new study says that taking tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer may not do much in terms of keeping women from dying of breast cancer.

    The new study, which will be published in the Sept. issue of Cancer, suggests that tamoxifen’s influence for high-risk women is mild and the drug is expensive, and the drug’s impact on preventing deaths is not that profound. The tumors that the drug are most likely to prevent--those fueled by the hormone estrogen--tend to respond better to chemotherapy and generally have a better prognosis than estrogen-negative tumors. However, as one doctor points out, although the drug has not demonstrated a great effect on mortality, the study doesn’t take into account one real-life scenario. Many high-risk women would gladly take tamoxifen to avoid the cancer experience, and not have to go through chemotherapy and surgery, even if they would have lived anyway. Good point. I couldn’t agree more with that analysis.
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    Bad side effects. Evista, the brand name for raloxifene, is an osteoporosis drug that has been successful at reducing the risk of breast cancer, but it might have some bad cardiovascular side effects. The study looked at 10,101 post-menopausal women who had heart disease or were at high risk for it. They took Evista or a placebo every day. After six years, those who had taken Evista were more likely to have a blood clot and 49 percent more likely to have died from a stroke than the placebo group. That translates into one more instance per 1,000 women treated. About 44 percent fewer women taking Evista were diagnosed with breast cancer and they also had 35 percent fewer vertebral fractures.

    What about Dad? A new study, mentioned in the New York Time Science section, found that women often report fewer cases of breast cancer on the paternal side of their families than on their mother’s side. A possible reason: Men are less likely to be told about breast cancer family history or to pass on the information. So, make sure your family history is complete so that your children will have the right information.

Published On: August 02, 2006