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Rx For Cancer

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Most women fear breast cancer more than any other. With good reason: it will claim nearly 40,000 victims this year.

The strongest risk factors: age, and family history; especially if a first degree relative -- mother, daughter, or sister -- had it.

Dense breast tissue also increases risk, as does having had a breast biopsy - especially if it showed worrisome cells called atypical hyperplasia.

The U-S Preventive Services Task Force has new guidelines, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, on breast cancer Chemoprevention: taking medication to prevent cancer.

After systematically reviewing existing studies, the task force says two drugs can help prevent high risk women from getting it:
Tamoxifen, already used by women who have had breast cancer to prevent recurrence;
and Raloxifen, already being used to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

There are down sides to both: hot flashes and increased risk of blood clots. Tamoxifen also increases risk of cataracts and uterine cancer.

These drugs are not for everybody. The task force recommends them only for high risk women 35 and older.

Online risk assessment tools are available to help you and your doctor decide if taking these medications is right for you.