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These findings were published in the journal Cancer.

Previous research has indicated that combined hormone replacement therapy (estrogen plus progestin), which some women take to treat symptoms of menopause, may increase the risk of dying from lung cancer.These findings suggest a possible link between hormones and the growth of lung cancer. If such a link exists, some researchers have questioned whether anti-estrogens—such as tamoxifen, which is used in the treatment of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer—could reduce the risk of lung cancer mortality.

To evaluate whether anti-estrogen therapy may decrease risk of lung cancer death, researchers compared outcomes of women with lung cancer who were taking tamoxifen with outcomes of women not taking tamoxifen. A total of 6,655 women participated; 46% received anti-estrogen therapy, while the remainder did not. Outcomes were compared with data from the general population.

  • 40 women in the study were diagnosed with lung cancer.
  • Lung cancer incidence among women taking anti-estrogens was similar with that of the general population.
  • The rate of lung cancer death among women taking anti-estrogens was lower than expected. Compared with the general population, there were 87% fewer lung cancer deaths among women taking anti-estrogens.
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These findings indicate that anti-estrogens may help lower the risk of death from lung cancer. The researchers conclude, “If prospective studies confirm our results and find that anti-estrogen agents improve lung cancer outcomes, this could have substantial implications for clinical practice.”

Reference: Bouchardy C, Benhamou S, Schaffar R, et al. Lung cancer mortality risk among breast cancer patients treated with anti-estrogens. Cancer [early online publication]. January 24, 2011.

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