Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is the drug of choice worldwide used in breast cancer treatment for the past 30 years. It is used in both preventive treatment and breast cancer treatment protocols. Sales for this drug exceed over 600 million dollars. Even though it has been proved to protect against breast cancer, its deadly side effects create other life threatening health problems. Is it worth exchanging one set of life threatening health problems for different deadly health problems?
How does Tamoxifen work? This drug is used to treat all stages of estrogen caused breast cancers, including cancer that has spread to surrounding organs. For the past 10 years it has been used to prevent breast cancer and prevent recurrence of breast cancer. Tamoxifen taken orally disrupts the activity of estrogen in your body. Some cancers are fed by estrogen ( estrogen receptor-positive). Estrogen receptor-positive means that the breast cancer cells have a protein to which estrogen will bind. Tamoxifen prevents that cancer protein cell from binding to the estrogen, preventing its ability to multiply. Patients should be tested for their cancer's hormone receptor status before being prescribed Tamoxifen. Some cancers may be receptive to progesterone or another hormone, rather than estrogen. This drug is only effective where estrogen is the hormone receptor.
Breast Cancer Effectiveness: It does work effectively to stop the spread of the breast cancer to the remaining breast and the recurrence of cancer during the 5 year period after the initial diagnosis. It is only effective for estrogen-positive cancers. It is generally prescribed for 5 years after the breast cancer first appears. Using it as a preventive drug is only advised when there is estrogen-receptive breast cancer present, a family history of breast cancer or an inherited BRAC1 or BRAC2 gene.
Drug Weaknesses, Side Effects and Long Term Health Risks:
A Toxic Carcinogen: Since 1995, Tamoxifen is listed as a carcinogenic substance on the list of chemicals that have been proved to cause cancer. It does bind with human DNA, causing mutation to the DNA. Even the National Health and Medical Research Counsel from Australia states there is no safe dose of Tamoxifen in its carcinogenic effects of DNA.
Mortality Rate Reduction: Tamoxifen does not affect the mortality rate of many deadly breast cancers that are not fed by estrogen. It only works on those that are estrogen receptors. It has no effect on the others. Using it as a preventive drug is only effective in high risk breast cancer patients.
Cancer -Resistant Cells: If Tamoxifen is taken for more than 5 years, sometimes less, the cancer cells becomes resistant to Tamoxifen and actually begin to use the drug to multiply. The cancer cells adapt the drug to their benefit. This is true of many cancer cells.
CYP2D6 Gene: Women with breast cancer (7 to 10 percent) who carry the gene variant CYP2D6 do not respond well to Tamoxifen. This means the drug does not work effectively in stopping the cancer.
Depression: 30 percent of women suffer depression while taking this drug. Inability to concentrate is also experienced. This is from research other than the National Cancer Institute. Tamoxifen may not work in preventing breast cancer when taken with the antidepressants Paxil, Prozac, and Zorloft. These patients are more than twice as likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer.
Eye Problems: Increases risk for developing cataracts, corneal scarring, or changes in retina of the eyes.
Uterine Cancer: Although it prevents breast cancer, it raises your risk for uterine cancer. The two specific cancers you are at risk for are endometrial cancer, which grows in the lining of the uterus and uterine sarcomas that grow in the muscular wall of the uterus and uterine cancer If you have had a hysterectomy, you are not at risk for these cancers.
Ovarian Cysts: Risk is increased.
NCI Stated Uterine Cancer Risks: The risks of these cancers according to the National Cancer Institute are two cases per 1000 women taking Tamoxifen. The Yale University School of Medicine and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston researched the uterine cancer connection and found that women who develop uterine cancer while taking Tamoxifen develop a more lethal form of this cancer. Normally cancer of the uterus is solved by surgically removing the uterus which saves the patients life.
Female Hormonal Side Effects: Hot flashes in over 80%, severe nausea in 30%; vaginal discharge in 50%; irregular periods and water retention in 25%; water retention in 32%; weight loss is 23%; severe sweating; increased severe sensitivity to sunlight; depression; severe vomiting; itching of the skin around the vagina; skin rash; and decrease in sexual drive.
In most premenopausal women, the ovaries continue to function normally but may produce more estrogen in some cases.
Pregnancy: This drug has shown to be toxic to your developing baby. It is advised not to use this drug when pregnant.
Difference in Severity of Research Risk Factors: The risks associated with this drug are all much greater in research
backed by the National Cancer Institute. This is not just one study but many studies covering several countries. You have to question the fact that drug companies support The National Cancer Institute, Medical Journals, and Medical Research Institutions here in this country, I would suggest that this is a conflict of interest issue in these research findings. Their funding of these institutions and journals is not opinion but fact here in the US. They also fund some research studies and institutions but less in foreign countries.
Tamoxifen Research from other countries:
In 1996, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, gave proof that Tamoxifen is a carcinogen that increases a woman's risk for endometrial cancer. This organization is made up from scientists around the world.
Swedish research in their large scale studies showed that women who took 40 mg of Tamoxifen for two to five years, had a six-fold increase in uterine cancer than the control group who did not take the drug. Even if patients who only took 20 milligrams, there was an increase.
Other countries research have found association to gastrointestinal cancers as well.
Liver Toxicity: Researchers from many countries have shown that this drug which is toxic to the liver, can cause acute hepatitis in some patients. In rodent studies, it has been shown to be toxic to the liver inducing liver cancers in the rats. Human studies have shown that after two years of taking Tamoxifen, there is a six-fold increase in liver cancer in these women. Liver failure and hepatitis brought on by this drug are not common but have occurred. This does not tell the story of what damage is occurring that may show up later when the patient is older.
Medline Plus lists liver toxicity but The National Cancer Center site does not.
Blood Clots and Strokes: it raises your risk for blood clots and strokes as does estrogen hormone therapy. This is increased when Tamoxifen is combined with chemotherapy drugs. This risk is stated in both the NCI risk factors and from other countries but the risk is downplayed in the American research studies.
In the October 2002 issue of the European Journal of Neurology, a study was published that associated Tamoxifen with an 82 percent increase in risk for clot related strokes and a 29 percent risk in all strokes. This research evaluated nine prior studies published on this issue. In other published research, it lists the increased risk for all strokes at 50 percent.
The risk factor for strokes and blood clots differ greatly. All the research from other countries rates it higher, much higher.
Asthma: Can trigger attacks in some patients. This comes from research based from other
If you look at the side effects including life threatening ones such as clots and uterine cancer, what are you gaining in the long run? There needs to more research done and safer answers that treat breast cancer.
CYP2D6 testing: This test can determine if your cancer will be responsive to this drug. There is a new gel version of this drug that is reported to cause fewer side effects.
The main reason women stop taking this drug, is it makes their life intolerable. There is a point where the treatment makes life unbearable. The quality of life becomes so awful that it is not worth living that way. So there needs to be another answer for these women, a safer answer that does not make their life miserable and lead to death from second cancers and clots.
What would I do if I was given a diagnosis of brest cancer? I would first visit a holistic cancer center, then I would use herbs and alternative medicine known to work on cancer. I have used herbs on every problem though the years including the genetic clotting problems I have. I would use herbs in this case too under the direction of a holistic doctor familiar with treating cancer. Each woman must make the ultimate decision on her individual treatment for her body’s health problems. That decision should be made after information from both standard and alternative medicine is viewed and explored. Read Knockout by Suzanne Somers on her fight against cancer holistically.
Alternative medicine can also relieve the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, so read the article below for a start.
How breast cancer is treated in Europe, Germany, and Switzerland:
Nexus Magazine, Volume 5, #4 (June - July 1998)
1st Edition, European Journal of Neurology, Oct issue, 2002, P.384, Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators: Research and Clinical Applications
Copyright: Kate Freer, the Herbladyisin All rights are protected on this article. You do not have permission to use this article or its contents without my express permission
Disclaimer: The FDA and AMA have not approved the contents of this article. This article is for education only. It is not meant to be used to prevent, treat, or prescribe for any illness. Get the permission from your doctor for any supplement that you take. There are interactions between herbs and drugs so be aware of that.
Published by Kate Freer
Master Herbalist, Medical Researcher, and Freelance Writer.
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