November 30, 2004

Race Not a Factor in Cancer Drug Risk

WASHINGTON - Women who take tamoxifen to combat breast cancer have about the same benefits and risks whether they are black or white, according to a study on the effects of the cancer drug.

In the study appearing this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analyzed data from 13 tamoxifen clinical studies involving more than 20,000 women and compared the outcomes for black and white women. Little difference was found between the races.

Among women diagnosed with cancer in one breast, between 2 percent and 15 percent will develop cancer in the other, or contralateral, breast. Studies have shown that treatment with tamoxifen will reduce onset of the new cancer by about 47 percent.

But most of those studies were conducted in populations composed largely of white women and little data existed on tamoxifen's effects among black women.

By combining the 13 studies and then separating the participants by race, National Cancer Institute researchers were able to search for racial differences.

The researchers found that "tamoxifen is equally effective in reducing the incidence of contralateral breast cancer in African-American and in white women who have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer."

One side effect of tamoxifen is an elevated risk of blood vessel blockage, a condition linked to heart attack or stroke.

The study of women treated with tamoxifen found the blood vessel blockage risk was not higher for black women than for white women.

Dr. Worta McCaskill-Stevens of the National Cancer Institute was lead author of the study.


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