Women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer can lower their risk by taking preventive mediations, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended.

Breast cancer is a major cause of death among women in the United States. One in every eight women in the country is likely to develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives, according to BreastCancer.org. The organization reported that around 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer and about 62,930 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed by the end of this year.

The USPSTF has now added two new recommendations to its 2013 recommendations. The findings were based on the analysis made by the task force by reviewing the details of over five million women who were involved in 46 studies.

The first recommendation was for individuals with no history of this chronic disease but had an increased risk of developing it. These women were suggested to consider taking preventive medications for lowering the risk of breast cancer, especially if they are not at risk of developing any kind of unwanted side effects.

The second recommendation was not to use such medications if the women are not at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, which includes factors, like their age and genetics. It is mainly because these women are at an increased risk of suffering from any kind of side effects due to the medicine intake.

“The Task Force encourages women to talk about the benefits and harms of medication with their clinicians so they can make the best choice for themselves, based on their personal values and preferences,” Michael Barry from Harvard Medical School in Boston, who is a Task Force member of USPSTF, told Reuters.

However, the task force did not make a sound recommendation about the intake of preventive medication mainly because they do not have enough evidence on the harms and benefits of these medications.

“Additionally, we also need more evidence to better understand the lifelong benefits and harms of these medications and how they can reduce risk in specific populations, such as African-American women who are more likely to die of breast cancer,” Barry said.

“While the Task Force encourages women to talk to their clinicians about their likelihood for developing breast cancer, the evidence did not clearly demonstrate a specific frequency for this assessment. Women might repeat risk assessments with their clinicians if there is a change in their risk factors, such as if a family member is newly diagnosed with breast cancer,” he continued.

“The Task Force continues to recommend that women who are concerned about their chances for developing breast cancer talk to their clinician to decide if preventive medications are right for them,” Barry added.

Meanwhile, Lydia E. Pace from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, who co-authored an editorial related to this recommendation for the Journal of the American Medical Association, said, “I have cared for patients who do really well with risk-reducing medications and feel good about their decision to take them. I have other patients who have not tolerated them and need to stop after a short time. And I’ve had patients who strongly don’t want to take a new medication every day for 5 years and don’t feel the potential benefit is worth it.”

“Decisions about these medications are often not clear-cut and I try to convey that, as long as women are informed, all of these decisions are okay. It’s also important for women to remember that there are other important ways that they can reduce breast cancer risk, including reducing alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight,” she added.

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A woman walks under a canopy of pink umbrellas on a street in downtown Sofia, Oct. 23, 2012. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov