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Menopause. 2007 Nov-Dec;14(6):995-8.

Memory impairments with adjuvant anastrozole versus tamoxifen in women with early-stage breast cancer.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.



Hormones have been implicated as modulators of cognitive functioning. For instance, results of our previous work in women with breast cancer showed that cognitive impairment was more severe and involved more memory domains in those who received adjuvant tamoxifen therapy compared with women who received chemotherapy alone or no adjuvant therapy. Recently aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole have been used in lieu of tamoxifen for the adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive, early-stage breast cancer. Plasma estrogen levels are significantly lower in women who receive anastrozole compared with those who receive tamoxifen. We hypothesized, therefore, that anastrozole would have a more profound effect on cognitive function than tamoxifen, a mixed estrogen agonist/antagonist.


To test this hypothesis we compared cognitive function in women with early-stage breast cancer who received tamoxifen with those who received anastrozole therapy in a cross-sectional study. We evaluated cognitive function, depression, anxiety, and fatigue in 31 postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer who were between the ages of 21 and 65 years and treated with tamoxifen or anastrozole for a minimum of 3 months.


The results showed that women who received anastrozole had poorer verbal and visual learning and memory than women who received tamoxifen.


Additional, prospective studies are needed to validate and confirm the changes in cognitive function associated with hormone therapy for breast cancer.

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