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Osteoporosis Drug May Be Used In Battle Against Breast Cancer

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PITTSBURGH, PA — Tamoxifen was the first drug available to help prevent breast cancer in high-risk patients. Now, a second drug option, which is primarily used to fight osteoporosis, may soon be available.

Breast cancer was not something Marion Taube wanted to live through again. She joined a study comparing two drugs -- Tamoxifen and the osteoporosis drug, Raloxifene.

"We have eight granddaughters, a daughter and three daughters-in-law, and I had that in my mind when I participated in the study," she said.

Taube took Raloxifene. The trial showed both drugs can reduce a woman's risk of breast cancer by about half. Dr. Victor Vogel, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said Raloxifene had added benefits in terms of causing fewer uterine cancers and fewer life-threatening blood clots.

A new study published in the

Journal of the American Medical Association

looked at quality of life issues for nearly 20,000 menopausal women at high risk of breast cancer. Women on either treatment experienced side effects.

Women on Tamoxifen had more leg cramps, gynecological and bladder control problems. Women on Raloxifene had more muscle and bone aches, pain during sexual intercourse and weight gain.

"I don't think I had any side effects," Taube said.

The results show the side effects on either drug treatment did not negatively impact the women's overall quality of life, which is good news for women today and in the future.

"The overall and exciting news from this study is that as soon as Raloxifene has also been approved for the prevention of breast cancer, women will have two choices," said Stephanie Land, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.

Vogel said for older women, Raloxifene may be the drug of choice. The researchers said they expect the Food and Drug Administration to approve Raloxifene for breast cancer prevention, but that could take a year or so.

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