Hormonal therapy and chemoprevention

Bernardo Bonanni, Aliana Guerrieri-Gonzaga, Nicole Rotmensz, Rosalba Torrisi, Francesca Pigatto, Massimiliano Cazzaniga, Serena Mora, Silvia Diani, Chris Robertson, Andrea Decensi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase the quality as well as the length of life, but a prolonged use can also increase the risk of breast cancer. The combination of HRT and a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) such as tamoxifen may retain the benefits while reducing the risks of either agent. A post hoc analysis of the Italian Tamoxifen Prevention Study showed a borderline significant reduction of breast cancer among women who were on HRT continuously and tamoxifen as compared with continuous HRT users who received placebo. Recent studies suggest that the standard dose of tamoxifen may be reduced to one-quarter (i.e., 10 mg every other day) without loss of its beneficial biological effects. Since the endometrial effect of tamoxifen seems to be both dose and time dependent, a dose reduction could substantially reduce the risk of endometrial cancer while retaining its preventive efficacy. On the other hand, the addition of HRT containing progestins could also minimize the risk of endometrial cancer associated with tamoxifen. Moreover, estrogen should reduce the incidence of vasomotor and urogenital symptoms, which are a major reason for tamoxifen withdrawal in prevention studies. Notably, in the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast Project (NSABP) P-1 trial, women ages 50 or younger had no increased incidence of adverse events, including endometrial cancer and venous thromboembolic events. One possible explanation for the lack of toxicity in premenopause is the presence of adequate circulating estrogen levels which prevent tamoxifen to act as an estrogen agonist at these target tissues. Moreover, data from the current Italian tamoxifen prevention trial indicate that the compliance was substantially higher for de novo and current HRT users as compared to women who never received HRT. during the study. The combination of HRT and tamoxifen at low doses could thus reduce the risks and side effects while retaining the benefits of either agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalBreast Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators
  • Tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Oncology


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