Dr. Stephen Szabo, of the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, answers a reader’s question about breast cancer.
I am at high risk for developing breast cancer. Are there medications that I can take to reduce this risk?
There have been a number of large, well-conducted studies looking at using medications to reduce the risk of breast cancer in high-risk populations (such as people with a strong family history or certain pathologic findings on breast biopsy). The three medications that have been tested are Tamoxifen, Raloxifene and Exemestane. These medications either block the estrogen receptor on at-risk breast tissue or lower estrogen levels in post-menopausal woman. These medications, which are pills, have been shown to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by about 50 to 60 percent if taken for five years.