Although the study results are too preliminary to warrant tamoxifen prescriptions for lung-cancer patients, the research looks promising.
Researchers at Geneva Cancer Registry looked at records of 6,655 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003 in Switzerland and found that 46 percent received anti-estrogen therapy, which was most likely tamoxifen since aromatase inhibitors were not available in Switzerland at the time.
Of the women receiving anti-estrogen therapy, 87 percent had decreased risk of dying from lung cancer compared to patients not taking the therapy.
Dr. Apar Kishor Ganti, assistant professor of oncology-hematology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, said the finding adds to mounting evidence that female sex hormones contribute to the progression of lung cancer if not the cause.
Only 40 of the women who were diagnosed with breast cancer went on to develop lung cancer, which is a very small sample, so the conclusions drawn must be taken with an eye toward skepticism.
Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. An estimated 222,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2010.