Public Release: 

Antiestrogen therapy may decrease risk for melanoma

American Association for Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA -- Women with breast cancer who take antiestrogen supplements may be decreasing their risk for melanoma, according to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Christine Bouchardy, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the University of Geneva and head of the Geneva Cancer Registry, and colleagues analyzed data from 7,360 women who had breast cancer between 1980 and 2005. About half (54 percent) of these women received antiestrogen therapy.

The researchers followed the patients until 2008 and recorded 34 melanoma cases during the follow-up period. Risk for melanoma was 60 percent higher among patients who did not receive antiestrogen therapy compared with patients who received antiestrogen therapy.

According to Bouchardy, the increased focus on estrogen's role in breast cancer has led scientists to start questioning what role estrogen is playing in other cancers. "These data reinforce the hypothesis that estrogens play a role in melanoma occurrence," she said.

Bouchardy said this may be due to the fact that estrogens are associated with increased levels of melanocytes and melanin production in human skin, which have been linked to early-stage melanoma. However, she cautioned against widespread antiestrogen supplementation to prevent melanoma in the general population.

"These results need to be replicated in other studies, particularly given the numerous side effects linked to this kind of drug," said Bouchardy.

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The study was funded by a grant from the Swiss Research Foundation against Cancer, a nonprofit group.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad, and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.

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