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Drug cuts cases of breast cancer in half

Category: Female Specific Tests

A study conducted by a team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London showed that breast cancer development in high-risk women decreased by 53 percent when taking the drug anastrozole. These findings could lead to a new option in cancer prevention for postmenopausal women.

Published in the Lancet, the study gathered nearly 4,000 female participants who were postmenopausal and had high risk of developing breast cancer. Half of the women were given a placebo pill, while the rest were given 1 milligram of anastrozole every day. Lab tests were conducted and reviewed for five years, and the researchers reported that 85 women in the placebo group developed breast cancer, compared to only 40 in the anastrozole group.

"This research is an exciting development in breast cancer prevention. We now know anastrozole should be the drug of choice when it comes to reducing the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with a family history or other risk factors for the disease. This class of drugs is more effective than previous drugs such as tamoxifen and crucially, it has fewer side effects," explained lead researcher Jack Cuzick, Ph.D.

Some side effects from estrogen-depriving drugs include sharp aches and pains, however, they found that the anastrozole group had similar reactions compared to the placebo group. This likely meant that the effects were not drug related and that worries in the past about the possible side effects were overemphasized.

"This landmark study shows that anastrozole could be valuable in helping to prevent breast cancer in women at higher than average risk of disease. We now need accurate tests that will predict which women will most benefit from anastrozole and those who will have the fewest side-effects," affirmed Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK.

The next step for these researchers will be to recommend that anastrozole be added to doctors' lists of drugs for breast cancer prevention.

"By including this drug in their clinical guidelines, more women will benefit from this important advancement in preventive medicine," concluded Cuzick.

Currently, the drug Arimidex is prescribed to patients for breast cancer prevention, as it inhibits estrogen in postmenopausal women. Following the results of this study, the usage of anastrozole as treatment could begin to rise.

Menopause and cancer risk
The risk of developing cancer increases as women age due to the development of menopause. Women who have been through natural menopause and are older are more likely to develop cancer. Additionally, some cancer treatments do result in menopausal symptoms in both men and women.

Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness and mood swings. Individuals who feel they are at risk should look into lab tests online in order to screen themselves for risk factors.

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