Background: The antiestrogen tamoxifen may have partial estrogen-like effects on the postmenopausal uterus. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are increasingly used after initial tamoxifen in the adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal early breast cancer due to their mechanism of action: a potential benefit being a reduction of uterine abnormalities caused by tamoxifen.
Patients and methods: Sonographic uterine effects of the steroidal AI exemestane were studied in 219 women participating in the Intergroup Exemestane Study: a large trial in postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor-positive (or unknown) early breast cancer, disease free after 2-3 years of tamoxifen, randomly assigned to continue tamoxifen or switch to exemestane to complete 5 years adjuvant treatment. The primary end point was the proportion of patients with abnormal (> or =5 mm) endometrial thickness (ET) on transvaginal ultrasound 24 months after randomisation.
Results: The analysis included 183 patients. Two years after randomisation, the proportion of patients with abnormal ET was significantly lower in the exemestane compared with tamoxifen arm (36% versus 62%, respectively; P = 0.004). This difference emerged within 6 months of switching treatment (43.5% versus 65.2%, respectively; P = 0.01) and disappeared within 12 months of treatment completion (30.8% versus 34.7%, respectively; P = 0.67).
Conclusion: Switching from tamoxifen to exemestane significantly reverses endometrial thickening associated with continued tamoxifen.