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In early June, 2011 the Canadian Cancer Society released a press release about a landmark international study about the breast cancer prevention drug, exemestane, an aromatase inhibitor. Exemestane has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, with a 65 percent decreased risk over the placebo.
Whenever a study is released with such stunning numbers there is going to be buzz about who should get the prescription for this new drug once it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This drug was given to healthy women who were at higher risk for breast cancer than the other women. Who are the women who are at higher risk for breast cancer? There are certain factors that we do not have control over that create a higher risk. As women age the risk for breast cancer increase--specifically, women over 60 years are at greater risk. There are familial risk factors for women who have parents, siblings or a child who have experienced the diagnosis of breast cancer. If a woman has been diagnosed before with breast cancer she has a higher risk for breast cancer again.
There are genetic factors that increase risk too: inherited mutation of BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Under normal circumstances the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes protect the body from creating abnormal cells. When there is a mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 the risk of developing cancer cells could be as high as 80 percent. These genes are most common in Jewish women of Eastern European descent.
There are some risk factors that people do have control over. These lifestyle issues are smoking, obesity, hormone replacement therapy after menopause, diet, exercise and excessive alcohol use. These factors are important to manage especially if you have several of the uncontrollable factors. Many of these are risk factors for other diseases as well so it is empowering to take your health in your hands when you can, while we see how this new prevention drug therapy continues to unfold.
Reviewed June 8, 2011