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Why Is Raloxifene Used for Breast Cancer?

Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer, except for skin cancer. Each year, more than 211,000 American women learn that they have breast cancer. Most breast cancer causes are not known. In 5 to 10 percent of these cases, there is a hereditary component. Common breast cancer symptoms include:
 
  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels
  • Nipple tenderness
  • A change in how the breast or nipple looks
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast
  • Nipple discharge (fluid).
     
Raloxifene has been approved to help lower the risk of breast cancer in certain groups of women, including postmenopausal women with osteoporosis and postmenopausal women who are at high risk for breast cancer. Studies have shown that raloxifene lowers the risk of breast cancer in these groups of women. You may be at high risk for breast cancer if:
 
  • You have a first-degree relative with breast cancer (a mother or sister, for example)
  • You have had a breast biopsy that showed cancer-like cells
  • Your healthcare provider determines that you are at high risk for breast cancer after considering factors such as your age and your menstrual and pregnancy histories.
     

How Does Raloxifene Work?

As mentioned, raloxifene belongs to a group of medications called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). SERMs have both estrogenic (estrogen-like) effects and anti-estrogen effects. Raloxifene has anti-estrogen effects on the breasts, while it has estrogen-like effects on bones, helping to strengthen them.
 
Many breast cancers are sensitive to the estrogen hormone, meaning that the tumor grows with the hormone's help. Raloxifene binds to estrogen receptors in the breast, decreasing the effects of estrogen. This, in turn, can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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