Exemestane after tamoxifen as adjuvant hormonal therapy in postmenopausal women with breast cancer: effects on body composition and lipids

Br J Cancer. 2006 Jul 17;95(2):153-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6603258.


Recent studies have shown that administering the aromatase inhibitor exemestane after 2-3 years of tamoxifen therapy significantly improves disease-free survival in postmenopausal women with primary breast cancer in comparison with standard 5-year tamoxifen treatment. Although many of the adverse effects associated with exemestane and tamoxifen have been analysed, there are no comparative data concerning body weight and body composition. The aim of this randomised study was to evaluate the longitudinal changes in body composition and lipid profiles in postmenopausal women switched from tamoxifen to exemestane. In total, 60 overweight or obese postmenopausal patients were enrolled. Their anthropometric data, body composition, including fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM), and lipid profiles, caloric intake and physical activity were assessed 1 week before randomisation, and 6 and 12 months later. In all, 55 patients (27 on tamoxifen and 28 on exemestane) completed the 1-year study period. Fat mass had significantly decreased by month 12 in the exemestane, but not in the tamoxifen group; the between-group difference was statistically significant (P<0.01). The FFM/FM ratio had significantly increased in the exemestane group, but not the tamoxifen group; the between-group difference was statistically significant (P<0.05). Triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol significantly decreased (P<0.01; P<0.05), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol significantly increased (P<0.01) in the exemestane group at the end of the 1-year study period. Our findings suggest that switching patients to adjuvant exemestane treatment after at least 2 years of tamoxifen therapy may be associated with an advantage over continuing adjuvant tamoxifen treatment in terms of body composition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Androstadienes / adverse effects
  • Androstadienes / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / drug effects
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / drug effects
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Postmenopause
  • Quality of Life
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Androstadienes
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Tamoxifen
  • exemestane