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Cancer J. 2000 May-Jun;6(3):169-78.

Decision analysis of tamoxifen for the prevention of invasive breast cancer.

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Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.



The recent Breast Cancer Prevention Trial has shown that tamoxifen may prevent invasive breast cancer. We used a Markov model to estimate the long-term effects of chemoprevention with tamoxifen on survival, quality-adjusted survival, and health care costs.


We used a hypothetical cohort of women with breast-cancer risk similar to that of participants in the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial, and a computer-based decision analysis (Markov model and 500 Monte Carlo simulations) to model the outcomes of interest. Survival calculations were from Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results (SEER) data; preference ratings from a time trade-off questionnaire administered to a group of average-risk women; and cost estimates from the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound and the Health Care Financing Administration. We obtained utility measures for quality-adjustment by administering a time trade-off questionnaire to a group of community-based women.


Use of tamoxifen prolonged the average survival of cohort members by 69 days (95% probability interval [PI] 27 to 117) for those who started use at age 35 years; 40 days (95% PI 16 to 67) for those who started use at age 50 years; and 27 days (95% PI 14 to 40) for those who started use at age 60 years. Tamoxifen extended quality-adjusted survival by 38 days (95% PI 0.1 to 82) at age 35, 25 days (95% PI 0 to 50) at age 50, and 22 days (95% PI 5 to 39) days at age 60. Chemoprevention with tamoxifen cost $46,619 (95% PI $27,928 to $98,796) per life year life saved for women who started at age 35; for women over age 50, it cost more than $50,000 per life year saved.


Tamoxifen use may improve long-term survival and quality-adjusted survival among women who are at increased risk of breast cancer, but this benefit diminishes with age. Tamoxifen is cost-effective in comparison with other cancer treatment strategies for younger women only.

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