The association of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and tamoxifen in patients with breast cancer

Cancer. 2009 Jul 15;115(14):3189-95. doi: 10.1002/cncr.24374.


Background: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a form of liver damage that can progress to cirrhosis. NASH is associated with obesity and diabetes. The condition also may be associated with some medications, including tamoxifen. Early case reports and small series have documented NASH in patients who received tamoxifen.

Methods: The records of patients registered in the St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Registry of Green Bay Wisconsin from January 1, 1992 to December 31, 2000 were reviewed.

Results: In total, 1105 patients with breast cancer were evaluated for NASH, and 24 cases of NASH were documented (2.2%). Seven patients had NASH before their diagnosis of breast cancer, and 17 patients developed NASH after their diagnosis of breast cancer. In multivariate analysis, the factors associated with NASH were tamoxifen use (odds ratio [OR], 8.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06-63.72), body mass index (BMI) (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.06-1.20), and age (OR, 95% CI, 0.91-0.99). NASH improved after tamoxifen was stopped. After discontinuation of tamoxifen, transaminase levels returned to normal in 14 of 16 patients.

Conclusions: NASH was present in 24 of 1105 patients with breast cancer (2.2%). Seven patients had NASH before they were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 17 patients developed NASH after their diagnosis. NASH was associated with the use of tamoxifen and improved when tamoxifen was stopped.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Fatty Liver / complications*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis / complications*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects*


  • Tamoxifen