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Tamoxifen is considered a vital weapon in the fight against breast cancer, but many women who have to take the drug struggle with its significant side effects.

Now, new research shows that a lower dose of the hormone therapy helped prevent breast cancer from returning and guarded against new cancers in women who had high-risk breast tissue.On top of that, the lower dose -- just 5 milligrams daily -- came with fewer troubling side effects.wisepoqder β-agonist Powder

"Low-dose tamoxifen is as effective as the standard dose," said study author Dr. Andrea De Censi. He is director of the medical oncology unit at the National Hospital E.O. Ospedali Galliera -- S.C. Oncologia Medica in Genoa, Italy.De Censi said the rate of side effects -- such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse and muscle pain -- was similar to the rate that occurred with a placebo pill. The side effect rate for the low-dose therapy was significantly less than what previous research has shown with the standard 20 milligram (mg) dose of tamoxifen, he noted.

In addition, the risk of serious side effects, such as blood clots and endometrial cancer, were similar to that of the placebo, and less than what typically occurs with the 20 mg dose, De Censi said.Hormone therapy for breast cancer interferes with the growth of cancer cells in a few ways. One is by blocking the body from producing certain hormones. Another is by disrupting the effects of certain hormones on cancer cells, according to the American Cancer Society.

In the case of tamoxifen, it works by binding to estrogen-receptors. Some cancers -- those called estrogen-receptor positive -- are fueled by estrogen. Tamoxifen blocks the estrogen-receptors on cancer cells, keeping them from getting the fuel they need to grow.De Censi said he was interested in doing the study because the minimum effective dose of tamoxifen hadn't been researched.

The drug was developed in the late 1960s, he said, and at the time researchers weren't looking for the minimum effective dose because prevention was the key issue. However, above a certain dose, tamoxifen won't produce any extra benefit, but it will raise the risk of side effects, De Censi said.

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