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Tamoxifen Finds A New Market

This frequently prescribed Anti-Estrogen drug may reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer.

AnnA Rushton

Tamoxifen is frequently prescribed for breast cancer treatment, despite well-known serious side effects from its use such as blood clots and strokes. I am always impressed at how when a drug is found lacking in one area that the manufacturer soon finds another use for it.

This has also been the case with HRT which I have seen recommended to help with conditions as varied as chronic tendonitis, psychosis, and insomnia so this is not a new phenomenon. When one market declines clever manufacturers find a new one.

A study published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, supports the hypothesis that there is a hormonal influence on lung cancer and that estrogen levels play a role in lung cancer patients’ prognosis.

Previous research has suggested that menopausal hormone therapy increases women’s risk of dying from lung cancer. If this is true, the use of anti-estrogens should have the opposite effect. Elisabetta Rapiti, MD, of the Geneva Cancer Registry led a study that compared lung cancer incidence and mortality among breast cancer patients who were and were not treated with anti-estrogen therapy. The study included all 6,655 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003 and registered at the Geneva Cancer Registry. Among these women, 46 percent (3,066) received anti-estrogens. All women were followed for occurrence and death from lung cancer until December 2007.

The investigators found that 40 women in the study developed lung cancer. Incidences of lung cancer was not significantly different between breast cancer patients who were and were not treated with anti-estrogens compared with the general population; however, fewer women taking anti-estrogens died from lung cancer than expected. Specifically, there were 87 percent fewer cases of death due to lung cancer in the anti-estrogen group than in the general population.

“Our results support the hypothesis that there is a hormonal influence on lung cancer which has been suggested by findings such as the presence of estrogen and progesterone receptors in a substantial proportion of lung cancers,” said Dr. Rapiti. “If prospective studies confirm our results and find that anti-estrogen agents improve lung cancer outcomes, this could have substantial implications for clinical practice,” she added.

Addressing Risk Factors:

The biggest risk factor for lung cancer is undoubtedly smoking. Around 90% of lung cancers in men and 83% in women are estimated to be from this cause and current smokers are 15 times more likely to die from lung cancer than life-long non-smokers. Compared with non-smokers, those who smoke between 1-14 cigarettes a day have eight times the risk of dying from lung cancer and those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day have 25 times the risk. However, risk is more dependent on duration of smoking than consumption: smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years is more hazardous than smoking two packs a day for 20 years.

If that risk factor is addressed, then talking to a doctor familiar with natural hormone prescribing would be a good second step before embarking on drug therapy such as Tamoxifen.

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