Medication Use for the Risk Reduction of Primary Breast Cancer in Women: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

Heidi D. Nelson, Rongwei Fu, Bernadette Zakher, Miranda Pappas, Marian McDonagh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Importance: Medications to reduce risk of breast cancer are effective for women at increased risk but also cause adverse effects. Objective: To update the 2013 US Preventive Services Task Force systematic review on medications to reduce risk of primary (first diagnosis) invasive breast cancer in women. Data Sources: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and MEDLINE (January 1, 2013, to February 1, 2019); manual review of reference lists. Study Selection: Discriminatory accuracy studies of breast cancer risk assessment methods; randomized clinical trials of tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors for primary breast cancer prevention; studies of medication adverse effects. Data Extraction and Synthesis: Investigators abstracted data on methods, participant characteristics, eligibility criteria, outcome ascertainment, and follow-up. Results of individual trials were combined by using a profile likelihood random-effects model. Main Outcomes and Measures: Probability of breast cancer in individuals (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUC]); incidence of breast cancer, fractures, thromboembolic events, coronary heart disease events, stroke, endometrial cancer, and cataracts; and mortality. Results: A total of 46 studies (82 articles [>5 million participants]) were included. Eighteen risk assessment methods in 25 studies reported low accuracy in predicting the probability of breast cancer in individuals (AUC, 0.55-0.65). In placebo-controlled trials, tamoxifen (risk ratio [RR], 0.69 [95% CI, 0.59-0.84]; 4 trials [n = 28421]), raloxifene (RR, 0.44 [95% CI, 0.24-0.80]; 2 trials [n = 17806]), and the aromatase inhibitors exemestane and anastrozole (RR, 0.45 [95% CI, 0.26-0.70]; 2 trials [n = 8424]) were associated with a lower incidence of invasive breast cancer. Risk for invasive breast cancer was higher for raloxifene than tamoxifen in 1 trial after long-term follow-up (RR, 1.24 [95% CI, 1.05-1.47]; n = 19747). Raloxifene was associated with lower risk for vertebral fractures (RR, 0.61 [95% CI, 0.53-0.73]; 2 trials [n = 16929]) and tamoxifen was associated with lower risk for nonvertebral fractures (RR, 0.66 [95% CI, 0.45-0.98]; 1 trial [n = 13388]) compared with placebo. Tamoxifen and raloxifene were associated with increased thromboembolic events compared with placebo; tamoxifen was associated with more events than raloxifene. Tamoxifen was associated with higher risk of endometrial cancer and cataracts compared with placebo. Symptomatic effects (eg, vasomotor, musculoskeletal) varied by medication. Conclusions and Relevance: Tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors were associated with lower risk of primary invasive breast cancer in women but also were associated with adverse effects that differed between medications. Risk stratification methods to identify patients with increased breast cancer risk demonstrated low accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)868-886
Number of pages19
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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