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According to the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, a study published on December 9 discovered that women may be placed at a higher risk for cardiovascular events in post-a menopausal stage due to some breast cancer medications.
Results from the study showed that long-term use of aromatase inhibitors, or drugs commonly-prescribed to treat breast cancer, may increase the risk of heart attack, angina and heart failure in women by 26 percent. The study compared the use of aromatase inhibitors to tamoxifen, a breast cancer medication with a low risk of heart complications.
Aromatase inhibitors, such as Aromasin, Arimidex and Femara, block the body’s production of estrogen, a hormone that fuels the growth of some cancers.
Researchers also considered patients’ absolute risk, or the individual risk that a person will develop the disease over time, as some relative statistics may be misleading. The absolute risk that patients would develop heart disease was 1 percent, but patients with pre-existing risk factors for heart disease had a 7 percent risk.
Dr. Eitan Amir, senior fellow at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, recommended that patients with heart disease change their medication or avoid taking aromatase inhibitors for a long period of time, or approximately three years.
“It appears that aromatase inhibitors have a significant increase in cardio toxic side effects, such as heart attack, angina and heart failure,” Dr. Amir said. “Switching drugs may reduce the side effects.”
Although tamoxifen has a lower risk of causing heart disease, the drug has been linked with blood clots, stroke and cataracts.
Breast cancer is the most common type of tumor in women, and approximately 209,000 women will be diagnosed the disease this year, according to the American Cancer Society.