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Certain medications can lower some women’s risk of breast cancer

By Reuters - Sep 08,2019 - Last updated at Sep 08,2019

NEW YORK — Women with a high risk of developing breast cancer can lower that risk by taking certain medications, according to updated recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). 

“The Task Force encourages women to talk about the benefits and harms of medication with their clinicians so they can make the best choice for themselves, based on their personal values and preferences,” USPSTF Task Force member Dr Michael Barry from Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health by e-mail. 

Drawing on findings in more than 5 million women who participated in 46 studies, USPSTF issued two main recommendations in its 2019 updated statement. 

First, women with no personal history of breast cancer but at a high risk for developing it should consider taking medications to reduce their risk of breast cancer, especially if they have a low risk of developing unwanted side effects. 

Second, the USPSTF recommends against using such medications for women who don’t have an increased risk of breast cancer (including women younger than 60 years with no additional risk factors for breast cancer), because the likelihood of side effects from the medications (like blood clots, endometrial cancer, and cataracts) probably outweighs the potential breast cancer prevention benefit. 

The previous recommendation, in 2013, included tamoxifen and raloxifene as risk-reducing medications. The 2019 update includes those and adds a class of medications called aromatase inhibitors (including exemestane and anastrozole) to that list. They note, however, that aromatase inhibitors are not currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for reducing the risk of breast cancer. 

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