Did you read the title of this blog and think OXYMORON ALERT? I was ready to pounce on this one as I imagined toxic chemo cocktails preventing one type of cancer while causing another, NOT the prevention I’m looking for. But I kept reading and learned that chemoprevention medications are taken with the goal of avoiding breast cancer altogether and thereby any subsequent need for chemotherapy. I remain skeptical, but then again I’m not among those deemed to be at above average risk for breast cancer.
While chemotherapy drugs indiscriminantly kill cells, chemoprevention drugs are those that work by simply blocking estrogen. Tamoxifen is a well-known estrogen blocker taken by women following breast cancer treatment, but did you know that it’s also approved for chemoprevention? In other words, women never diagnosed with breast cancer but deemed to be at high risk for developing the disease could be prescribed tamoxifen to reduce their risk.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has reviewed the research on tamoxifen’s performance as a chemoprevention drug and concluded that it significantly reduces new breast cancer cases. Other researchers are less certain. And while these are not technically chemotherapy drugs, there are risks involved in taking them for breast cancer prevention – stroke, uterine cancer, blood clots, to name just a few. ASCO and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force disagree about just where the acceptable threshold lies between risks and benefits associated with chemoprevention drugs. Read more here and let us know your thoughts on chemoprevention drugs.