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Beware of the Dark Side of
by Sherrill Sellman
There has been much ado in the
press recently about the wonders of the drug tamoxifen (nolvadex). It has been
heralded as a major breakthrough in the treatment and possible prevention of
breast cancer. Tamoxifen is now the number one recommended drug treatment for
women recovering from breast cancer. With half a billion dollars (US) in annual
revenues1, it is currently used by more women with breast cancer than any other
But as is the case with all
pharmaceutical drugs, there are serious dangers which seem to be conveniently
glossed over. Far from the savior of women's lives, it has potential lethal
Despite tamoxifen's supposed
ability to reduce recurrence in postmenopausal women, major studies have shown
that tamoxifen reduces death from breast cancer only marginally.3,
4 The majority of
women who take tamoxifen live no longer than women who refuse it.5 It is with
great alarm that researchers are finding that some breast cancers actually learn
how to use tamoxifen to stimulate their growth.6
While the initial findings of
tamoxifen's role in breast cancer treatment seemed so promising, further
research presented grave concerns for its widespread use. In fact the Physicians
Desk Reference lists 25 adverse reactions to tamoxifen. Some can be fatal.
Tamoxifen often induces
menopausal symptoms in young women. About half of the women experience hot
flashes, fluid retention, weight gain, vaginal discharge, and vaginal atrophy.
Some studies have also found that premenopausal users are at risk of developing
accelerated bone mineral loss and osteoporosis. Menstrual irregularities also
occur in premenopausal women. Amenorrhea ( absence of the menstrual cycle) often
results and can be permanent.
Women using tamoxifen have
experienced damaged retinas, increased corneal opacities, and decreased visual
acuity. Irreversible corneal and retinal changes can also occur. These changes
may predispose the eyes to later problems including cataracts.
Tamoxifen irritates the walls of
the veins. The constant irritation and inflammation weakens the veins causing
bleeding, clotting, thrombophlebitis, and in the worst cases -- obstruction of
the blood vessels serving the lungs which can be deadly and occur with little
warning.7 Several studies showed that the risk of developing life-threatening
blood clots increased as much as seven times in women taking tamoxifen.8
Depression has been reported as
a potential side-effect of tamoxifen in 30% of women. Cases have been reported
of an inability to concentrate.
Tamoxifen can trigger asthma
attacks in some sensitive patients.
Vocal Cord Changes
Tamoxifen can also cause changes
to the vocal cords resulting in impairment of singing and speaking abilities.
Liver Cancer and Liver Disease
Tamoxifen is toxic to the liver
and can cause acute hepatitis. The latest human studies show a six-fold increase
in liver cancer among women taking tamoxifen for more than 2 years.9 Liver
failure and tamoxifen-induced hepatitis, although rare, have been reported.
While Zeneca, the manufacturer of tamoxifen admits that it is a liver
carcinogen, it still continues to aggressively promote its use.
Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer
Uterine growths such as polyps, tumors,
endometrial thickenings and cancers occur in a significant number of women. One
study detected abnormal endometrial cells in subjects the day after the first
tablet was taken!10
In a recent study, precancerous
uterine and endometrial changes were seen in 10% of the women taking tamoxifen.
The higher the dose of tamoxifen, and the longer it is taken, the greater the
risk of changes. Women taking the standard dose for two years run the risk of
uterine cancer that is 2 to 3 times greater than normal. After five years the
risk is 6 to 8 times greater than normal.11
In February 1996 a review
composed of scientists from various countries concluded "that there is
sufficient evidence to regard tamoxifen as a human carcinogen that increases a
woman's risk of developing.... cancer of the endometrium, the inner lining of
When the news came out reporting
that breast cancer patients who take tamoxifen for five years or longer might
have triple the risk of uterine cancer13, many researcher said that "it's no
big deal" since early detection of endometrial cancer rarely results in
death. That statement infuriated critics who noted that the treatment for
uterine cancer is a hysterectomy. However, now it is known that breast cancer
patients who develop uterine cancer while using tamoxifen are likely to have a
fast moving, lethal form of the disease.14
In September 2000, The Lancet
reported a study which showed that the drug tamoxifen, often used to treat
breast cancer and as a preventive in some high risk women as well, increased the
risk of developing endometrial cancer. In addition, this risk increased with
time, leading researchers to question the use of the drug in healthy women. It
found that women who took tamoxifen for 2 to 5 years had twice the risk of the
cancer as women who have not taken it. Women who had taken it for 5 years or
more have a seven times higher risk of endometrial cancer. The total increased
risk for all women who used tamoxifen at all was 50%. Advanced endometrial
cancers were more common in women who had taken tamoxifen long-term than in
those who had not. The 3-year survival for endometrial cancer was
"significantly worse" for long-term tamoxifen users.
It also should be noted that
tamoxifen has also been associated with gastrointestinal cancers.
on the next page:
* Breast Cancer Protection Revisited;
* Heart Disease and Osteoporosis;
* Tamoxifen: A Known Carcinogen;
* Alternatives to Tamoxifen;
* Solutions to the Breast Cancer Epidemic;
Another article by Ms.
Sellman's eight years of research
in writing the book "Hormone
What Women Must Know About Their
Info/Order this book
SELLMAN is a psychotherapist, lecturer, and Women's Health Educator. Sherrill actively writes for health
magazines in over 12 different countries and presents public and
corporate lectures and trainings in Australia, New Zealand, America,
Canada, and England. Sherrill offers a Hormonal Balancing Coaching
Program by phone consultation at (918) 437-1058. For further info visit www.ssellman.com
or email [email protected].
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