Aromatase inhibitors increase cardiovascular disease risk in breast cancer patients

December 16, 2010

Postmenopausal women who take aromatase inhibitors as a treatment for breast cancer may be at an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, according to a new study presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Postmenopausal women who take aromatase inhibitors (AI) as a treatment for breast cancer may be at an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, according to a new study presented at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center-American Association for Cancer Research, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, December 8 to 12.

Researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada, conducted a meta-analysis of the research, and found that the use of AIs in postmenopausal women was associated with a 20% higher probability of developing cardiovascular disease.

“We are recommending that physicians should consider not only the benefits of AIs and tamoxifen, but also the risk factors. A lot of clinicians can get into a situation where we look at the breast cancer efficacy of these drugs, and not the harm these drugs may do,” said Eitan Amir, MD, a senior fellow in the division of medical oncology and hematology at Princess Margaret Hospital.

The data indicate that women presenting with breast cancer treatment who have risk factors for cardiovascular disease should be considered for a shorter duration of AIs. However, the use of AIs resulted in a reduced risk for venous thrombosis and endometrial carcinoma.

In addition, the research found that switching from tamoxifen to AIs reduced the risk of death from causes other than breast cancer. “This potentially suggests that there may be side effects that build up the longer a woman is on a certain drug, but switching drugs may reduce the side effects,” Amir said.