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Breast cancer drug may cut lung cancer deaths

London: A drug commonly used to treat breast cancer may also help reduce the risk of lung cancer deaths, a new Swiss study has claimed.

Researchers at the University of Geneva found that women who were given "Tamoxifen" to treat their breast cancer had a very low death rate from lung cancer.

The scientists said that their research, if backed up, could have substantial implications for clinical practice, the BBC reported.

Tamoxifen, which cancels out the sex hormone oestrogen, was first used to fight breast cancer more than 40 years ago.

Hormones have long been associated with some forms of cancer. Some studies have shown that increasing levels of oestrogen, through hormone replacement therapy, increase the risk of lung cancer.

Based on the hypothesis that blocking oestrogen may help cut lung cancer risk, the researchers analysed data on 6,655 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003.

Just under half had been prescribed anti-oestrogens.

Although there was no significant difference in the number of women developing lung cancer, those on anti-oestrogens were 87 per cent fewer deaths from lung cancer compared to others, according to the findings published in the journal Cancer.

Dr Elisabetta Rapiti, who lead the study at the Geneva Cancer Registry, said: "Our results support the hypothesis that there is a hormonal influence on lung cancer, which has been suggested by findings such as the presence of oestrogen and progesterone receptors in a substantial proportion of lung cancers.

"If prospective studies confirm our results and find that anti-oestrogen agents improve lung cancer outcomes, this could have substantial implications for clinical practice."

Oliver Childs, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "It`s possible that breast cancer drugs like Tamoxifen could also have an effect on lung cancer, but we can`t draw firm conclusions from this study alone — the number of women who developed lung cancer was small".

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