Ten years of tamoxifen may be better than five

News | 6 December 2012

Women with hormone positive (ER+) breast cancer are often recommended to take tamoxifen, or another hormone therapy such as an aromatase inhibitor, for five years. A group of international researchers has been investigating whether there are further benefits in taking tamoxifen for up to 10 years.

Previous research has shown that five years of tamoxifen substantially reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence for up to fifteen years after diagnosis.

This new study has shown that continuing to take tamoxifen for up to ten years provides even further protection against both recurrence and death from breast cancer particularly beyond the tenth year after diagnosis. The study authors note that these findings are also likely to apply to other hormone therapies, such as aromatase inhibitors (including Arimidex®, Aromasin® and Femara®).

BCNA CEO Maxine Morand welcomes the results of this study.

"Improving survival and quality of life for the estimated 160,000 Australian women living with breast cancer is extremely important. We welcome the news that taking tamoxifen for ten years, rather than the usual five years, could significantly reduce breast cancer recurrence in women with ER-positive breast cancer.

"It is good news that survival may be improved by taking tamoxifen for longer, however it is still important to take into account a woman's individual circumstances and her tolerance of side effects."

If you believe these study results may be relevant to your own treatment, you may like to discuss this with your treating doctor.

We know that some women find the side effects of tamoxifen and other hormone therapies difficult to manage. If you are taking a hormone therapy, you may like to order or download BCNA’s Hormone therapy and breast cancer booklet. The booklet explains how these drugs work, why they are so effective at preventing breast cancer recurrences, and provides tips for women on how to manage some of the side-effects.

Source: Christina Davies et al. Long-term effects of continuing adjuvant tamoxifen to 10 years versus stopping at 5 years after diagnosis of oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer: ATLAS, a randomised trial. The Lancet, 2012 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61963-1


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