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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Drug May Be New Option to Cut Breast Cancer Risk

Study Shows Aromasin May Help Prevent Breast Cancer in High-Risk Women

Risks vs. Benefits continued...

"It's a potentially game-changing thing," says study researcher Rowan T. Chlebowski, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Researchers who weren't involved in the study agree.

"The study speaks for itself. It is remarkably positive," says Marc E. Lippman, MD, chairman of the department of medicine at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami.

Lippman says it remains to be seen whether women will warm to the idea of taking a medication when they're healthy to lower the chance that they may get cancer later, particularly if it means dealing with side effects.

Aromatase inhibitors have been shown to cause some bone loss, which can be reversed, and many women find that symptoms associated with menopause like hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, and arthritis get worse while on the medications.

In the current study, however, about the same number of women reported those kinds of side effects in the placebo group compared to those taking Aromasin, suggesting little difference on or off the drug.

There were no major differences between the two groups in terms of fractures, cardiovascular events, other kinds of cancer, or treatment-related deaths.

Oncologists say the new study means that more women can, and probably should, be on the medications.

Tracking Breast Cancer Risk

Starting in 2004, researchers enrolled 4,560 postmenopausal women.

In order to be included in the trial, women had to be either over age 60 or they had to be over age 35 with a Gail risk score of 1.66% or higher or have a history of in situ cancer. A Gail risk score calculates the five-year risk of developing breast cancer based things like family history, age, race, and childbearing history.

Women weren't eligible if they were premenopausal, because Aromasin doesn't work in women with functioning ovaries.

They were also excluded if they'd had a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer; were known carriers of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes; had history of other kinds of invasive cancer within the last five years; or had uncontrolled thyroid or liver disease.

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