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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Preventative drugs for breast cancer

28th March 2011

A panel of experts has recommended that women at high risk of breast cancer should be given preventative medication.


The experts said one in 10 women who were in the highest risk category would be helped by taking the drugs.

The panel met in Switzerland to debate the issue and the results were published in Lancet Oncology.

The panel said there were parallels with the use of statins for heart disease, which have been used for over 10 years and are given to millions of people.

The panel recommended the use of drugs such as tamoxifen to treat women who had over a 4% chance of developing breast cancer within a decade.

"The idea of preventing cancer with drugs seems quite alien," said Professor Jack Cuzick, the chairman of the expert panel and Cancer Research UK epidemiologist at Queen Mary, University of London.

"But if someone came to a clinic with high cholesterol and was told 'Come back in a year and we will check you again' you would think that was mad. Yet that is what we do with cancer."

There are around 48,000 new cases of breast cancer every year and this number is increasing. The amount of cases has risen by 80% over the past thirty years.

The panel made the suggestion that breast density could be one "marker" as patients with over 75% "dense breast tissue" revealed by mammography scans had over four times more danger of developing breast cancer.

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