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Study Shows Tamoxifen a Blessing for Many -- a Curse for a Few


Cynthia Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network, testified against approval at the 1998 FDA advisory committee hearings. Pearson tells WebMD, "The van Leeuwen data provide some support for our contention that it doesn't make sense to try to prevent one cancer by using a drug that causes another cancer. During the approval hearings, some experts contended that the [uterine] cancers caused by tamoxifen were relatively 'good' and curable cancers. This study provides evidence to the contrary."

Although tamoxifen can be prescribed in the U.S. for any healthy, high-risk women who are worried about developing breast cancer, Pearson urges such women not to just take it by prescription but to enroll in a study where they will be closely watched.

Van Leeuwen says that all women taking tamoxifen should know the warning signs of uterine cancer. "Any woman who has taken tamoxifen for two or more years should be very watchful for any symptoms of [uterine] cancer, particularly postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. This is true even if tamoxifen has been discontinued for quite some time, since we still do not know when or whether the [uterine] cancer risk disappears," she says.

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