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Breast cancer drug potential to save thousands of lives

Published on 13/12/2013

Women at high risk of developing breast cancer could halve their risk by taking the drug anastrozole, according to a new study.

The drug could change breast cancer prevention methods

According to the study, thousands of high-risk, postmenopausal women significantly reduced their risk of developing the disease by taking anastrozole for five years. The study was led Queen Mary University and funded by Cancer Research UK and the findings were published in The Lancet.

The research involved nearly 4,000 postmenopausal women identified as being at high-risk from developing breast cancer. Half the women were administered with 1mg of anastrozole on a daily basis whilst the other half were given a placebo.

In the five years of study, 40 women on the anastrozole drug and 85 women on the placebo developed breast cancer. Women were deemed high risk of breast cancer if they had a family history of breast cancer, especially those closely related such as a sister or mother. Other factors included women with certain high risk types of benign breast disease.

Professor Jack Cuzick, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University, said: “This research is an exciting development in breast cancer prevention. 

“We now know anastrozole should be the drug of choice when it comes to reducing the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with a family history or other risk factors for the disease.

“This class of drugs is more effective than previous drugs such as tamoxifen and crucially, it has fewer side effects.”

A large number of breast cancers develop due to the hormone oestrogen and anastrozole works by preventing the body from producing oestrogen.

Kate Law, director of research at Cancer Research UK, said: “This landmark study shows that anastrozole could be valuable in helping to prevent breast cancer in women at higher than average risk of disease.

“We now need accurate tests that will predict which women will most benefit from anastrozole and those who will have the fewest side-effects.”

Experts calculate that if the results were extrapolated to all the women in the UK who were at high risk and taking anastrozole then more than 3,200 lives could be saved each year. Cancer Research UK is now campaigning for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to approve the drug along with tamoxifen and raloxifene. Both of which were approved earlier this year and help prevent breast cancer developing.

Private health insurance can give you access to ground-breaking new drugs and treatments not always available on the NHS.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013

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