Medication to prevent breast cancer — too much to swallow?

Sandra L Harvey, Jane E Francis, Amanda J McBride, James F Bishop and Kelly-Anne Phillips
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.10830
Published online: 12 December 2011

Selective oestrogen receptor modulators effectively reduce breast cancer in women at moderate to high risk, so why aren’t they being discussed routinely?

Using medication to prevent breast cancer in women at moderate and high risk is a cost-effective1 and immediately implementable strategy for reducing the burden of breast cancer in Australia. There is Level 1 (strong) evidence that selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such as tamoxifen and raloxifene reduce breast cancer risk by up to 40% in these women.2 The absolute risk reduction depends on an individual’s risk factor profile.

  • Sandra L Harvey1
  • Jane E Francis2
  • Amanda J McBride3
  • James F Bishop4,5
  • Kelly-Anne Phillips1,6

  • 1 Division of Cancer Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Cancer Australia, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 5 Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 6 Department of Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.



We thank Alison Trainer for her critical review of the manuscript. Kelly-Anne Phillips is the Dr John Colebatch Clinical Research Fellow of the Cancer Council, Victoria.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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