Five out of six women at higher risk of breast cancer reject drugs to prevent the disease

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have collated data from 26 international studies totalling more than 21,000 women of all ages who were at increased risk of developing breast cancer. All of the women in the study were offered a five year course of preventative medication to lower their risk of preventing breast cancer. Overall just 16.3% of the women at higher risk decided to take the medication.

Previous research has shown that taking the drug raloxifene can lower the risk of breast cancer in women who are at high or moderate risk of developing it. The breast cancer drug tamoxifen has also been shown to protect against the disease for at least 20 years in women who take the drug for five years. The team also examined a separate group of 18 studies looking at how likely the women were to complete the full course of treatment. The study found that most women who decided to take the preventative drugs took them for at least one year however this amount declined over time. Study author, Dr Sam Smith, from Queen Mary University of London, said: “Our important research reveals that only a small proportion of eligible women make the decision to have preventative medication. “It’s crucial to find out why so many chose not to take the drugs – or stopped taking them before completing the course.”

Drugs to block cancer-causing hormones and surveillance with an annual mammogram may be offered to certain women with a family history of the disease when they have a moderate to high risk of breast cancer. To read more about this study please visit the Cancer Research UK website.