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December 30th, 2009
Breast Cancer Drug May Prevent Lung Cancer Death

The prescription drug tamoxifen used as an anti-hormone to treat breast cancer, may be useful in preventing death caused by lung cancer, new research reveals.

In the study, women who were given tamoxifen for breast cancer were found to be less likely to die from lung cancer than other women. In addition, women with breast cancer who were not given anti-hormone drugs were at the same risk level of lung cancer death as women in the general population.

Tamoxifen is used by breast cancer patients to block the activity of estrogen in order to slow tumour growth. The drug has been used for decades to treat breast cancer, but its use in the past few years has been replaced by aromatase inhibiters. Medical researcher Elisabetta Rapiti, MD, MPH, at the University of Geneva in Switzerland also believes that aromatase inhibiters will also prevent lung cancer.

The research was completed with 6,715 women in Switzerland diagnosed with breast cancer from 1980 and 2003. In this group, 46% of the women were on anti-hormone therapy, mainly tamoxifen. At the end of 2007, lung cancer was detected in 40 women.

Rapiti and colleagues began their research after another study presented earlier this year that found that women taking hormone replacement therapy to relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms were at a larger risk of dying from lung cancer.

Rapiti hypothesized that if taking estrogen replacements increases lung cancer death, anti-estrogens must have the opposite effect of preventing lung cancer death.

Because there is more estrogen in breast cells, anti-estrogen prescription drugs are used to treat breast cancer patients. However, lung tissue also has a lot of estrogen too, which is why anti-estrogen drugs should also avert lung cancer.

Studies to determine whether anti-estrogen drugs can add to traditional chemotherapy to help lung cancer patients are currently in progress.


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