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Can tamoxifen decrease my chance of developing breast cancer?

Launched in April 1992, the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT) was designed to see whether the drug tamoxifen could prevent breast cancer in women with an increased risk. Data reported in 1998 showed that both pre- and post-menopausal women taking tamoxifen had 49 percent fewer diagnosed cases of breast cancer. These results were also the first clear indication that a chemopreventive agent could be effective in preventing cancer in a high-risk population. For women over 50, tamoxifen was associated with serious side effects, such as endometrial cancer and blood clots.

Starting in 1999, post-menopausal women ages 35 or older at increased risk for breast cancer participated in the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR). The study compared tamoxifen with raloxifene, an osteoporosis drug. The initial results of the trial showed that the drug raloxifene works as well as tamoxifen in reducing breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women at increased risk of the disease. In STAR, both drugs reduced the risk of developing invasive breast cancer by about 50 percent. In addition, within the study, women who were prospectively and randomly assigned to take raloxifene daily, and who were followed for an average of about four years, had 36 percent fewer uterine cancers and 29 percent fewer blood clots than the women who were assigned to take tamoxifen. Uterine cancers, especially endometrial cancers, are a rare but serious side effect of tamoxifen. Both tamoxifen and raloxifene are known to increase a woman's risk of blood clots. Data from STAR continue to be analyzed.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute

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