Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Tamoxifen May Cut Lung Cancer Deaths

Study Suggests Hormones Influence Some Lung Cancers
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 24, 2011 -- Tamoxifen, the medication long used to prevent the growth of breast cancer tumors, also appears to reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer, research suggests.

If the link bears out in future studies, giving tamoxifen for lung cancer may become another option for doctors, the researchers say.

The team of Swiss and French researchers followed more than 6,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003. The researchers found that women on tamoxifen for their breast cancer who also contracted lung cancer were 87% less likely to die from the lung cancer than women who weren't on tamoxifen.

"A reduction of 87% is definitely more than modest," Elisabetta Rapiti, MD, senior epidemiologist at the Geneva Cancer Registry, tells WebMD in an email interview.

The study is published online in the journal Cancer.

Tamoxifen for Lung Cancer: The Back Story

The finding makes sense in the wake of previous research, Rapiti tells WebMD. In the past, research has found that hormone therapy taken during menopause increases the risk of dying from lung cancer.

"We have seen in the laboratory that estrogens can stimulate the growth and proliferation of lung cancer cells," she says.

So, it would follow that the tamoxifen, an “anti-estrogen,” may work against lung cancer.

"Our findings are quite new and exciting, as they are the first to document such a strong association between the use of tamoxifen and reduced mortality of lung cancer," she says.

The work builds on earlier studies, as far back as the late 1980s, that found evidence that estrogen may be involved in the development of lung cancer, she says, especially adenocarcinomas.

The adenocarcinomas occur in smokers and nonsmokers and are more common in women than in men, the American Cancer Society says. The tumors are usually found in the outer region of the lung and account for about 40% of all lung cancers.

Tamoxifen for Lung Cancer: Study Details

Rapiti's team found that 40 women in the study -- out of a total of 6,655 -- contracted lung cancer during the follow-up, which lasted until December 2007. Although 46% of the women were prescribed tamoxifen or other anti-estrogen drugs to treat their breast cancer, 54% were not.

Today on WebMD

Broken cigarette
Do you know the myths from the facts?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
cancer fighting foods
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Lung Cancer Surgery Options