Barriers to the Use of Breast Cancer Risk Reduction Therapies

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  • a From the Departments of Clinical Cancer Prevention and Health Services Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
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Evidence from randomized clinical trials supports the use of tamoxifen, raloxifene, exemestane, and anastrozole for the reduction of risk of invasive breast cancer, predominately estrogen receptor–positive tumors. Revised clinical guidelines now strongly recommend that physicians offer high-risk women medication for breast cancer risk reduction. Although only a small portion of eligible women receive risk reduction medication, evidence suggests higher acceptance among women with atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ. Among physicians, barriers for prescribing risk reduction medications include inadequate training in risk assessment, lack of reimbursement for prevention counseling, and the unavailability of easily accessible and user-friendly prediction tools for estimating risk/benefit profiles. Strategies to improve uptake among women have focused on providing education about breast cancer risk and information that accurately conveys the risks and benefits of risk reduction medications. Priority areas of research that have been identified to improve the use of risk reduction medications are the (1) development of risk assessment tools that more accurately identify women most likely to benefit, (2) identification of circulating or tissue biomarkers that can predict and monitor responsiveness of treatment, and (3) better understanding of patient-related barriers, including patients' subjective beliefs and experiences.

Correspondence: Abenaa M. Brewster, MD, MHS, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention, Unit Number 1360, Houston, TX 77230-1439. E-mail:

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