Drugs used to treat breast cancer may also be useful in tackling lung cancer, according to research in Switzerland.The study, published The Cancer Journal, showed that anti-oestrogens reduced the number of deaths from lung cancer.
The authors said the research, if backed up, could have substantial implications for clinical practice.Cancer Research UK warned that large scale clinical trials were needed before any conclusions could be made. Hormones have long been associated with some forms of cancer.
Tamoxifen, which cancels out the sex hormone oestrogen, was first used to fight breast cancer more than 40 years ago.Some studies have shown that increasing levels of oestrogen, through hormone replacement therapy, increase the risk of lung cancer.
They analysed data on 6,655 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003. Just under half had been prescribed anti-oestrogens.There was no significant difference in the number of women developing lung cancer, but those on anti-oestrogens did have a lower death rate.
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.