Writing in the May 9 issue of the British Journal of Cancer, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Kaiser Permanente Southern California indicate that tamoxifen therapy neither raises nor lowers the chance of a subsequent heart attack in women who have had breast cancer. Earlier studies had suggested that tamoxifen improves lipid levels by reducing low density lipoprotein levels-resulting in lower total cholesterol-which is related to cardiovascular health.
The findings add to growing knowledge about tamoxifen's cardiovascular effects after breast cancer treatment. In 2004, the same research team found that tamoxifen did not raise stroke risk in breast cancer survivors.
The latest study did, however, link heart attack to another aspect of cancer treatment: radiation therapy. Use of radiation therapy was associated with a doubled risk of heart attack in the study, regardless of whether women took tamoxifen or not. Researchers are uncertain about the significance of the radiotherapy finding-the study was not designed to explore radiotherapy's relationship to heart health, they note-and they caution that further research is needed before drawing conclusions on radiotherapy's heart impact.
"Within the past few years, studies have shown the value of a new class of drugs, the aromatase inhibitors, in preventing breast cancer's recurrence among postmenopausal women. Tamoxifen, though, continues to be an important tool for improving prognosis and reducing risk of recurrence and a second primary breast cancer," said study senior author Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine and AFLAC Chair in Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medi
Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California