(Bloomberg) — Some women who are at high risk of breast cancer, including those with a family history of the disease, should consider taking drugs to reduce their chances of getting cancer, a U.S. health advisory group says.
The drugs, tamoxifen and raloxifene, carry risks such as blood clots, stroke and cataracts, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the draft recommendations on its website. The proposal is open for public comment until May 13.
Both drugs are known to prevent cancer by blocking the effects of estrogen, lowering the risk of tumors that require the hormone to grow. About 232,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and an estimated 40,000 will die of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The treatment isn’t recommended for all women, as tamoxifen can also cause uterine cancer. Rather, it’s meant for women ages 40 to 70 who don’t have a prior diagnosis of breast cancer and don’t have a history of blood clots or stroke.
“There are several serious harms associated with tamoxifen and raloxifene, which is why doctors must engage in a conversation with their patients and discuss the harms and benefits of these medications to reduce the risk of breast cancer,” says Wanda Nicholson, a task force member and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. “Because of these harms, the task force recommends against the use of these medications for women who are not at increased risk for breast cancer.”
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