Objective: The prolonged use of estrogen therapy is associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. Alternative therapies that are effective in the prevention of menopause, having associated morbidities but no unwanted effects, are of primary interest in the pharmacologic research. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of two alternative to estrogens drugs, the selective estrogen receptor modulator raloxifene and the tissue-specific tibolone, on the mammographic appearance of the breast.
Design: The study group comprised 131 postmenopausal women aged 41 to 67 years. The women were at least 2 years postmenopausal, free of climacteric symptoms, and at the time of entry to the study had not had therapy for at least 9 months. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease were allocated either to tibolone (n = 56) or raloxifene (n = 48) therapy. Women with no risk factors and women who either did not qualify for or denied treatment (n = 27) served as controls. The study duration was 12 months. Women received a baseline mammogram before commencing therapy and a repeat mammogram at the end of the study period. Mammogram findings were classified according to the modified Wolfe criteria by two expert radiologists.
Results: No difference was identified between groups with respect to baseline characteristics associated with breast cancer risk. Similarly, no difference was detected between groups concerning the modified Wolfe classification of baseline mammographic findings. In the tibolone group, 10.7% of the women showed an increase in breast density in the 12-month reevaluation. The respective figure in the raloxifene group was 6.3%, whereas no woman in the control group showed an increase in breast density. Differences in the increase in breast density between groups did not, however, reach statistical significance. Accordingly, 10.7% of women in the tibolone group and 18.8% of women in the raloxifene group exhibited involutionary changes in the repeat mammogram, whereas 25.9% of women in the control group revealed a decrease in breast density in the 12-month examination. The percentages were not significantly different between groups.
Conclusions: Breast density as shown by mammography was stable in a majority of patients and changed in a minority of cases for both tibolone and raloxifene. In most patients, these drugs are not likely to interfere with mammogram interpretation. Larger long-term studies are needed to confirm the impact of prolonged tibolone or raloxifene administration on mammography.