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Drug can prevent cancer for 20 years

High risk women who take the drug tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer stand a good chance of keeping the disease at bay for 20 years, research has shown.

The protective effect of tamoxifen lasts at least two decades during which time it reduces breast cancer rates by around 30pc, scientists found.

After 20 years, the estimated risk of developing breast cancer was 8pc in women treated with tamoxifen for five years compared with 12pc for women given an inactive placebo pill.


Professor Jack Cuzick, from Queen Mary, University of London, who led the trial, said: "Tamoxifen is a well-established and effective treatment for certain breast cancers, but we now have evidence of its very long-term preventive benefits.

"The preventive effect of tamoxifen is highly significant, with a reduction in breast cancer rates of around a third and this impact has remained strong and unabated for 20 years.

"We hope these results will stimulate more women, particularly younger women, to consider treatment options for breast cancer prevention if they have a family history of the disease or other major risk factors."

A total of 7,154 pre and post-menopausal women aged 35 to 70 took part in the trial, all of whom were considered at high risk of breast cancer.

Most had a family history of the disease.