Byline: JILL PALMER, Medical Correspondent
THE drug tamoxifen cuts the risk of breast cancer by 38 per cent, a study has shown.
Scientists at Cancer Research UK found tamoxifen dramatically reduced the danger for healthy women with a high chance of developing the disease.
Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of the charity, said: "It looks clear to us now that tamoxifen has an important role in preventing breast cancer."
An international team led by Professor Jack Cuzick analysed 14 studies involving more than 40,000 women using tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention.
Their findings are published in the Lancet medical journal.
Tamoxifen is the most widely used breast cancer drug, given to thousands of women after treatment to prevent the disease recurring.
It works by blocking the effect of the hormone oestrogen, which can help tumours grow, and is credited with saving the lives of 20,000 women in Britain over the past 20 years.
The drug is one of the main reasons breast cancer death rates have fallen even though incidence of the disease is rising. But there has been controversy over its use for prevention in healthy women who are at high risk because of their family history. Side effects include an increased risk of cancer of the womb and blood clots. Scientists are looking at ways of reducing the side effects by using a lower dose or adding low dose aspirin. And, because the patent has run out, the drug is now very cheap, costing only 8p a day per patient.
Case A:Diana Baker, 61, Kent
I HAD breast cancer and was given chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumour but finally needed to have my left breast removed in May 2001.
I had reconstructive surgery at the same time as the mastectomy operation and, since then, have been on tamoxifen to prevent the cancer coming back in my other breast.
I was warned that, as with any medicine, there could be side effects.
The pill box contains a long list of these, including sore mouth, dizziness, hot flushes, nausea, and stomach ache. …