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Clin Geriatr Med. 2003 May;19(2):371-9.

Selective estrogen-receptor modulators.

Author information

  • Helen Hayes Hospital, Route 9W, West Haverstraw, NY 10993, USA. cosmanf@helenhayeshosp.org


Tamoxifen is useful for adjuvant treatment of breast cancer and in some women for the prevention of breast cancer. The risk-benefit ratio in regard to the skeleton and perhaps other organ systems may very well be different for postmenopausal versus premenopausal women. In postmenopausal women, tamoxifen (20 mg/d) increased BMD in the spine and perhaps the hip; however, the effect on fracture risk is unclear. Therefore, for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, consideration should be given to the addition of an agent that is shown to have efficacy against fractures (such as bisphosphonates), even while these women are on tamoxifen. For women at only modest or moderate risk, with bone density above the osteoporosis range (T score above -2.5) and no major fracture history, tamoxifen is probably adequate for 5 years of use. Potentially serious adverse effects include venous thromboembolism, uterine cancer, benign uterine disease, and cataracts. Raloxifene (60 mg/d) protects against vertebral fractures over 4 years in women with osteoporosis, produces small increases in bone mass of the spine, hip, and total body, and reduces bone turnover in postmenopausal women with or without osteoporosis. No significant effect has yet been demonstrated on nonvertebral fractures after 4 years of treatment. Raloxifene has the additional benefit of substantially reducing the risk of ER-positive invasive breast cancer and does not increase the risk of uterine disease. Raloxifene increases the risk of venous thromboembolic disease to the same degree as tamoxifen and estrogen. Therefore, SERMS and estrogens are generally contraindicated in women with a previous history of venous thromboembolism or those who are at significantly increased risk. Raloxifene is probably most useful in women who have osteoporosis (T score = -2.5) or who are at risk (T score less than -1.5 with clinical risk factors) in the middle menopausal period (age 55-65) or in the early menopausal period in women who have no significant hot flashes. At this stage in life, vertebral fractures are common, but hip fractures are not. Therefore, women who take raloxifene can expect a reduction in the likelihood of having a vertebral fracture, and possibly breast cancer. The lack of definitive efficacy against hip fracture is not a major deterrent to use of this agent in this age group because hip fracture risk is very low. Raloxifene might not be the treatment of choice for elderly women who are at particularly high risk of hip fracture.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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