Breast Cancer: Preventive Treatments

For women at high risk of breast cancer, several drugs are now available that have been shown to reduce their risk. Examples of these therapies include:

Findings from one of the largest breast cancer prevention trials ever conducted — the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR) — showed that tamoxifen and raloxifene were equally effective in preventing invasive breast cancer in women at high risk for the disease, reducing risk by about 50 percent.

The study also found that raloxifene was not as effective as tamoxifen for the reduction of noninvasive breast cancer (DCIS), but that tamoxifen was associated with the development of more uterine cancers and blood clots than raloxifene.

Prophylactic Surgery

Women with an inherited risk of breast cancer due to BRCA mutations may also choose to undergo prophylactic surgical removal of the breasts and/or ovaries. Such surgery can lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Our researchers have quantified the risk-reduction benefits associated with these procedures, both of which we offer at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Women who choose prophylactic mastectomy have our renowned team of reconstructive breast surgeons at their disposal, should they wish to have this procedure.

For women without hereditary breast cancer, the level of breast cancer risk is rarely high enough for prophylactic breast removal to be considered necessary.