Endometrial cancer survival after breast cancer in relation to tamoxifen treatment: pooled results from three countries

Breast Cancer Res. 2012 Jun 12;14(3):R91. doi: 10.1186/bcr3206.


Introduction: Tamoxifen is an effective treatment for breast cancer but an undesirable side-effect is an increased risk of endometrial cancer, particularly rare tumor types associated with poor prognosis. We investigated whether tamoxifen therapy increases mortality among breast cancer patients subsequently diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Methods: We pooled case-patient data from the three largest case-control studies of tamoxifen in relation to endometrial cancer after breast cancer (1,875 patients: Netherlands, 765; United Kingdom, 786; United States, 324) and collected follow-up information on vital status. Breast cancers were diagnosed in 1972 to 2005 with endometrial cancers diagnosed in 1978 to 2006. We used Cox proportional hazards survival analysis to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: A total of 1,104 deaths occurred during, on average, 5.8 years following endometrial cancer (32% attributed to breast cancer, 25% to endometrial cancer). Mortality from endometrial cancer increased significantly with unfavorable non-endometrioid morphologies (P < 0.0001), International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics staging system for gynecological malignancy (FIGO) stage (P < 0.0001) and age (P < 0.0001). No overall association was observed between tamoxifen treatment and endometrial cancer mortality (HR = 1.17 (95% CI: (0.89 to 1.55)). Tamoxifen use for at least five years was associated with increased endometrial cancer mortality (HR = 1.59 (1.13 to 2.25)). This association appeared to be due primarily to the excess of unfavorable histologies and advanced stage in women using tamoxifen for five or more years since the association with mortality was no longer significant after adjustment for morphological type and FIGO stage (HR = 1.37 (0.97 to 1.93)). Those patients with endometrioid tumors, who stopped tamoxifen use at least five years before their endometrial cancer diagnosis, had a greater mortality risk from endometrial cancer than endometrioid patients with no tamoxifen exposure (HR = 2.11 (1.13 to 3.94)). The explanation for this latter observation is not apparent.

Conclusions: Patients with endometrial cancer after breast cancer who received tamoxifen treatment for five years for breast cancer have greater endometrial cancer mortality risk than those who did not receive tamoxifen. This can be attributed to non-endometrioid histological subtypes with poorer prognosis among long term tamoxifen users.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / mortality*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects*
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Tamoxifen