Published on 15/01/2013
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has advised that women with a strong family history of breast cancer are offered drugs on the NHS to reduce their risk of the disease.
Many women develop breast cancer by chance, and the older you are the higher your risk of the disease. However, having a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer greatly increases your likelihood of developing the condition.
Now, NICE has begun a consultation on whether drugs can be given to high risk women to help prevent the disease. This is the first time women have been advised to take preventative treatment for cancer.
In draft guidance, NICE recommends that all women over 30 at high risk are offered drug tamoxifen or raloxifen for five years to reduce it.
With around half a million women with a strong family history of breast cancer, it is predicted that there would be 20 fewer cases of breast cancer for every 1,000 high risk women.
NICE also recommends that mammography screening tests are offered annually to the women instead of every three years, as well as genetic tests to find out if they carry a faulty gene.
Chris Askew, chief executive of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "This draft guideline represents a historic step for the prevention of breast cancer. It is the first time drugs have ever been recommended for reducing breast cancer in the UK."
Neither tamoxifen nor raloxifen are licensed yet for preventative treatment, and the side effects of the drugs need to be balanced against the benefits. NICE says that final guidance will be presented this summer.
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