Factors affecting uptake and adherence to breast cancer chemoprevention: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ann Oncol. 2016 Apr;27(4):575-90. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdv590. Epub 2015 Dec 8.


Background: Preventive therapy is a risk reduction option for women who have an increased risk of breast cancer. The effectiveness of preventive therapy to reduce breast cancer incidence depends on adequate levels of uptake and adherence to therapy. We aimed to systematically review articles reporting uptake and adherence to therapeutic agents to prevent breast cancer among women at increased risk, and identify the psychological, clinical and demographic factors affecting these outcomes.

Design: Searches were carried out in PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE and PsychInfo, yielding 3851 unique articles. Title, abstract and full text screening left 53 articles, and a further 4 studies were identified from reference lists, giving a total of 57. This review was prospectively registered with PROSPERO (CRD42014014957).

Results: Twenty-four articles reporting 26 studies of uptake in 21 423 women were included in a meta-analysis. The pooled uptake estimate was 16.3% [95% confidence interval (CI) 13.6-19.0], with high heterogeneity (I(2) = 98.9%, P < 0.001). Uptake was unaffected by study location or agent, but was significantly higher in trials [25.2% (95% CI 18.3-32.2)] than in non-trial settings [8.7% (95% CI 6.8-10.9)] (P < 0.001). Factors associated with higher uptake included having an abnormal biopsy, a physician recommendation, higher objective risk, fewer side-effect or trial concerns, and older age. Adherence (day-to-day use or persistence) over the first year was adequate. However, only one study reported a persistence of ≥ 80% by 5 years. Factors associated with lower adherence included allocation to tamoxifen (versus placebo or raloxifene), depression, smoking and older age. Risk of breast cancer was discussed in all qualitative studies.

Conclusion: Uptake of therapeutic agents for the prevention of breast cancer is low, and long-term persistence is often insufficient for women to experience the full preventive effect. Uptake is higher in trials, suggesting further work should focus on implementing preventive therapy within routine care.

Keywords: adherence; chemoprevention; decision-making; medication; preventive therapy; uptake.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Chemoprevention / adverse effects
  • Chemoprevention / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride / adverse effects
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride / therapeutic use
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use


  • Tamoxifen
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride