Women at higher risk of breast cancer opt out of tamoxifen drug

Women at higher risk of breast cancer opt out of tamoxifen drug

A new study funded by CRUK has found that six in seven women with a family history of breast cancer decide to not take tamoxifen as a preventative measure.

The study, published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, saw researchers ask 258 healthy women across England who had been identified as having an increased risk of breast cancer whether they agreed to take tamoxifen to aid prevention of the disease developing.

Reasons behind women not choosing to take the drug were that they:

  • Thought cancer was down to fate;
  • Distrusted medication in general; and
  • Feared side effects would interfere with looking after their family.

The team, based at the University of Leeds, University College London and Queen Mary University of London in the UK, and Northwestern University in the US, found women with children were more likely to take up the offer of tamoxifen.

Using tamoxifen to prevent cancer

Tamoxifen is most commonly given to those women who have been treated for breast cancer to lower the risk of it recurring.

However, in 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also approved the drug for cancer prevention in women who are at higher risk of the disease due to a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, after research showed it could lower risk by almost a third.

Dr Samuel Smith, study author from the University of Leeds, said: “While it’s reassuring a woman’s background doesn’t seem to be a barrier to taking tamoxifen, only one in seven of those at increased risk of breast cancer are taking up the option. Therefore, it’s important doctors can discuss women’s concerns and provide information to help them while they are considering their options.

“Further research is needed to understand if all women eligible to take tamoxifen for prevention are getting the help and support they need.”

Understanding why women reject tamoxifen

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s senior clinical advisor and GP expert, said: “When an established drug like tamoxifen is found to work not only as a treatment for breast cancer, but is also shown to reduce the risk of the disease, it seems we’re making real progress.

“It’s valuable to understand why women might reject tamoxifen, and this research highlights there are a range of complex reasons behind the decision.

“It’s vital more work is done to understand these barriers, improve treatments and ensure doctors are getting the support they need to help women decide whether preventative medication is right for them.”

Press Release: Cancer Research UK


  1. Hi, I’m trying to get informed about THC:
    My wife had breast cancer, had her full breast removed, needed no chemo or radio.
    She’s on Tamoxifen and is experiencing almost every side effect and isn’t looking forward to another 9 years of taking it.
    Would a few months dose of THC safely get her off Tamoxifen and if so would taking THC with tamoxifen be dangerous?
    Any advise would be appreciated.
    Any professionals available to converse please get in touch


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