Estrogen Blockers may Block Melanoma too

Melanoma risks decreased in breast cancer thrivers taking antiestrogen meds

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) More and more, we're hearing about unintended consequences and side effects of medicines that have been on the market sometimes for years. Women who have beaten breast cancer can bask in new findings about a medication most of them take.

Estrogen-blocking medications such as tamoxifen may be protective against melanoma in women who have lived beyond breast cancer. These medicines are used to decrease estrogen, the hormone that drives the majority of breast cancers.

"Take all medicines as prescribed - report any significant side effects."

The study, led by Christine Bouchardy, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the University of Geneva and head of the Geneva Cancer Registry, analyzed the records of 7,360 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2005. Roughly half of these women were on antiestrogen therapy.

The women were followed until 2008. During this time, 34 women developed melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Researchers found melanoma risks were 60 percent higher among women who did not take estrogen blocking drugs than for women who did take the medicines.

"We have long suspected estrogen sensitivity of melanoma, with trials of tamoxifen for this disease completed many years ago that were disappointing," said Adam Brufsky, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "This may provide new impetus to reopen this idea," Dr. Brufsky told dailyRx.

In recent years, estrogen has been studied for its possible involvement in other cancers. Dr. Bouchardy says estrogen is associated with increased levels of melanocytes which are linked to early-stage melanoma. The hormone also plays a role in the production of melanin in the skin.

Dr. Bouchardy warns against people in the general population sing estrogen blocking medications to prevent melanoma.

“These results need to be replicated in other studies, particularly given the numerous side effects linked to this kind of drug,” Dr. Bouchardy said in a news release announcing these findings.

This study was funded by a grant from the non-profit group, Swiss Research Foundation against Cancer.

Study findings were published in the January, 2012 issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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Review Date: 
January 4, 2012
Last Updated:
January 5, 2012