Background: Tamoxifen is a candidate chemopreventive agent in breast cancer, although the drug may be associated with the development of endometrial cancer. Therefore we did a trial in hysterectomised women of tamoxifen as a chemopreventive.
Methods: In October, 1992, we started a double-blind placebo-controlled, randomised trial of tamoxifen in women (mainly in Italy) who did not have breast cancer and who had had a hysterectomy. Women were randomised to receive tamoxifen 20 mg per day or placebo, both orally for 5 years. The original plan was to follow the intervention phase by 5 years' follow-up. In June, 1997, the trialists and the data-monitoring committee decided to end recruitment primarily because of the number of women dropping out of the study. Recruitment ended on July 11, 1997, and the study will continue as planned. The primary endpoints are the occurrence of and deaths from breast cancer. This preliminary interim analysis is based on intention-to-treat.
Findings: 5408 women were randomised; participating women have a median follow-up of 46 months for major endpoints. 41 cases of breast cancer occurred so far; there have been no deaths from breast cancer. There is no difference in breast-cancer frequency between the placebo (22 cases) and tamoxifen (19) arms. There is a statistically significant reduction of breast cancer among women receiving tamoxifen who also used hormone-replacement therapy during the trial: among 390 women on such therapy and allocated to placebo, we found eight cases of breast cancer compared with one case among 362 women allocated to tamoxifen. Compared with the placebo group, there was a significantly increased risk of vascular events and hypertriglyceridaemia among women on tamoxifen.
Interpretation: Although this preliminary analysis has low power, in this cohort of women at low-to-normal risk of breast cancer, the postulated protective effects of tamoxifen are not yet apparent. Women using hormone-replacement therapy appear to have benefited from use of tamoxifen. There were no deaths from breast cancer recorded in women in the study. It is essential to continue follow-up to quantify the long-term risks and benefits of tamoxifen therapy.