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Discovery Spotlight: Heidi Nelson, MD

Medications effective in reducing risks for breast cancer can cause serious side effects

Photo File 2 241HNAlthough tamoxifen, raloxifen and tibolone dramatically reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer, some patients experience adverse effects, according to a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), US Department of Health & Human Services. 

The report is based on a study led by Heidi D. Nelson, MD, MPH, Research Professor in the Department of Medical informatics & Clinical Epidemiology (pictured). It was published online in the Sept. 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The report, Comparative Effectiveness of Medications to Reduce Risk of Primary Breast Cancer in Women, is the latest analysis from the Agency's Effective Health Care Program. 

The study is the first to make a direct, comprehensive comparison of drugs that reduce the risk of breast cancer so that women and their health care providers can assess their potential effectiveness and adverse effects. It compares the use of tamoxifen, raloxifene and tibolone to reduce the risks of getting breast cancer in women without pre-existing cancer. The study found that all three drugs reduce the occurrence of breast cancer but have various side effects.

"Before applying the findings of the report to practice, clinicians must ensure that women understand their individual risks for breast cancer and can favorably balance these with the unwanted effects of risk-reducing medications," explained Dr. Nelson. 

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