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Quick Study

QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, December 7, 2004; Page HE06

breast cancer

Osteoporosis drug may block breast cancer in older women.

THE QUESTION A four-year study of postmenopausal women taking raloxifene (Evista) for osteoporosis found that 72 percent fewer participants who took the drug developed breast cancer than did those who took a placebo. What effects might longer-term use of this medication produce?

THIS STUDY enrolled 5,213 women from the first study (about 68 percent of the participants), continuing their existing random assignment to take either raloxifene or a placebo daily. To participate originally, women had to be postmenopausal, 80 years old or younger and diagnosed with osteoporosis. Everyone in the raloxifene group took 60 milligrams; in the earlier study, the group took either 120 mg or 60 mg of the drug. During the next four years, 59 percent fewer women in the raloxifene group developed invasive breast cancer, compared with those taking a placebo. Over the eight-year span of the two studies, invasive breast cancer rates were 66 percent lower among those who took the drug. But women taking raloxifene were twice as likely to experience a blocked blood vessel as were those not taking the drug.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

CAVEATS A gap of about 11 months existed between the two studies; whether the participants took medications then that might have affected the results was not monitored. The study did not determine whether any of the reduced risk was attributable to a carry-over effect from the first four years. The findings may not apply to women without osteoporosis. The study was funded by Eli Lily, which makes Evista; the company also designed and supervised the statistical analysis of the study. Three authors worked for the company; the other five received various fees from or owned stock in it.

BOTTOM LINE Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis may want to talk with a doctor about raloxifene.

FIND THIS STUDY Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute; abstract available online at www.jncicancerspectrum.oupjournals.org.

LEARN MORE ABOUT breast cancer at www.cancer.org and osteoporosis at www.niapublications.org.


Clinical depression may increase risk of stroke in men.

THE QUESTION Smoking cigarettes, having high blood pressure, being diabetic or having heart disease all can make a stroke more likely. Should being depressed be added to this list?

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