Chemoprevention is a way to prevent or delay the development of cancer by taking medicines, vitamins or other agents.
Tamoxifen, the first chemoprevention drug to receive FDA approval, is the most well-known chemopreventive agent. Studies have shown that tamoxifen reduces a high-risk woman’s chances of developing breast cancer by as much as one-half.
Some chemopreventive drugs can have severe side effects in some patients, which is an issue when considering long-term administration of a drug to healthy people who may or may not develop cancer. For this reason, most chemopreventive drugs are recommended solely for people at high risk of developing cancer because they are most likely to benefit from treatment. Persons at high risk of developing cancer include those with:
- A family history of the disease
- An inherited genetic mutation, such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)
- Other factors that increase cancer risk (ethnicity, obesity, smoking, etc.)
Speak with your doctor about your risks for developing cancer, as well as the potential harms and benefits associated with taking chemopreventive agents. Your doctor can help decide if chemoprevention is right for you.