High risk for breast cancer? You might benefit from preventive medication

Women at high risk for breast cancer might benefit from taking medication to prevent the disease, says a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a national group of experts. Medications such as tamoxifen (Nolvadex), raloxifene (Evista), and aromatase inhibitors have been shown to help prevent invasive, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, but they can cause serious side effects, such as other cancers and blood clots. For some women, the potential benefits of these drugs outweigh those risks. The USPSTF, however, recommends against routine use of these medications for women who are not at high risk for breast cancer, because the potential benefit is much smaller. Women who are over age 35 and are at high risk for breast cancer or who have had previous benign breast lesions (such as atypical ductal or lobular hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ) might want to discuss this recommendation with their doctor. The USPSTF encouraged doctors to weigh the risk of breast cancer against potential drawbacks of the medications and the individual woman’s risk for adverse effects.

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