London, Jan 15 (IANS) Thousands of healthy women in Britain may be given powerful breast cancer drugs that will cut their chances of contracting the disease for at least 20 years, a media report said Tuesday.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said the drugs tamoxifen or raloxifene could offer 20 years of protection for people considered at high risk of cancer, the Daily Mail reported.
The aim is to slash the chances of developing breast cancer in the first place.
Tamoxifen has been used to treat the illness for more than 30 years, saving the lives of thousands of people.
International trials show the drug reduces the risk of the most common kind of breast cancer by one third after taking the drug for five years, with the preventative effect lasting up to 20 years.
Women would need to take the drugs for five years either before or after menopause.
Almost 50,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain. Of these, around 2,400 have inherited faults in known breast cancer genes while a further 5,000-7,000 are affected by genes not yet identified.
Both tamoxifen and raloxifene are licensed in the US for breast cancer prevention but are not widely taken up, partly because of concerns about side effects.