How do we increase uptake of tamoxifen and other anti-estrogens for breast cancer prevention?

Publication Type:

Journal Article


NPJ breast cancer, Volume 3, p.20 (2017)


Several randomized controlled trials of anti-estrogens, such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, have demonstrated up to a 50-65% decrease in breast cancerincidence among high-risk women. Approximately 15% of women, age 35-79 years, in the U.S. meet criteria for breast cancer preventive therapies, but uptake of these medications remain low. Explanations for this low uptake includelack of awareness of breast cancer risk status, insufficient knowledge about breast cancer preventive therapies among patients and physicians, and toxicity concerns. Increasing acceptance of pharmacologic breast cancer prevention will require effective communication of breast cancer risk, accurate representation about the potential benefits and side effects of anti-estrogens, targeting-specific high-risk populations most likely to benefit from preventive therapy, and minimizing the side effects of current anti-estrogens with novel administration and dosing options. One strategy to improve the uptake of chemoprevention strategies is to consider lessons learned from the use of drugs to prevent other chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Enhancing uptake and adherence to anti-estrogens for primary prevention holds promise for significantly reducing breast cancer incidence, however, this will require a significant change in our current clinical practice and stronger advocacy and awareness at the national level.