MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The anti-estrogen drug that
transformed the treatment of breast cancer three decades ago may
also reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer, researchers
In a study published in the Jan. 24 online edition of the
Cancer, tamoxifen lowered the risk of dying from lung cancer among women who already had breast cancer. However, the results are too preliminary to warrant giving tamoxifen to lung cancer patients.
"There aren't a whole lot of clinical implications, but it does provide more evidence to our accumulating knowledge that female sex hormones are involved in some way, shape or form in lung cancer progression," said Dr. Apar Kishor Ganti, assistant professor of oncology-hematology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. "Whether or not it's a cause is a little sketchy."
Ganti was not involved with the study.
Prior studies had indicated that taking hormone replacement
therapy during menopause upped a woman's chances of dying from lung
So these researchers hypothesized that the opposite might be
true -- that anti-estrogens might lower a woman's risk of death
from lung cancer.
Previous studies have also indicated that lung cancers, like
breast and gynecological cancers, express hormone receptors.
In the current study, Dr. Elisabetta Rapiti, from the Geneva
Cancer Registry, and colleagues reviewed records of 6,655 women
diagnosed with breast cancer in Switzerland between 1980 and 2003.
Just under half (46 percent) received anti-estrogen therapy which,
during that time period, was most likely tamoxifen (aromatase
inhibitors were not yet in use in Switzerland, the authors
Women taking anti-estrogen therapy had an 87 percent decreased
risk of death from lung cancer, compared to women who weren't
taking this type of therapy.
There was no link between anti-estrogen therapy and whether or
not a woman actually developed lung cancer.
One limitation to the research, Ganti noted, is that only 40
women actually developed lung cancer, so it was a very small study
The estrogen receptors implicated in lung cancer "don't seem to
discriminate between men and women," Ganti said, indicating that
anti-estrogens might have the same effect in men, although it's too
early to state this definitively.
Other than breast and gynecological cancers, such as ovarian
cancers, lung cancer has been the most extensively studied with
regard to its interplay with estrogen, said Jing Peng, a
post-doctoral associate in the Cancer Prevention Program at Fox
Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
There is limited evidence that estrogen may play a role in
head-and-neck cancers as well.
But the issue is a complicated one, with some studies in mice
suggesting that tamoxifen might actually promote lung cancer, Peng
"This article at least verifies that further studies should be carried out," she said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on
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