Medicines to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

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Do these drugs have the same risks as post-menopausal hormone therapy?

Some women take estrogen (sometimes with progesterone) after menopause to help with symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. This is known as post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It can also help women maintain bone density and reduce their risk of fractures.

Taking estrogen plus progesterone after menopause is known to raise a woman’s chances of heart disease, blood clots, breast cancer, and other serious health problems. Women who are thinking about taking these hormones after menopause should know about these possible side effects and talk to their doctors about them before making the decision. Those who decide to use HRT should use the lowest dose that works and use it for the shortest possible time.

Neither tamoxifen nor raloxifene reduces symptoms linked to menopause, and may even make them worse. Like PHT, these drugs raise the risk of blood clots. The risk of blood clots in post-menopausal women is about the same for women taking tamoxifen as for those who are taking PHT. The risk is lower for women taking raloxifene.

Both tamoxifen and raloxifene help slow or reduce bone loss and have been shown to help lower the risk of broken bones. These drugs have no clear overall effect on heart disease. Both of these drugs can lower the risk of breast cancer.

Last Medical Review: 06/04/2013
Last Revised: 07/17/2013