Chemoprevention is the use of pharmacologic or natural agents to inhibit the development of cancer. Tamoxifen citrate is the only approved chemopreventive agent for breast cancer. We sought to determine whether women are interested in taking a drug to prevent breast cancer and to assess the relationship between objective and subjective breast cancer risk and interest in chemoprevention.
We conducted telephone interviews (November 3, 1997, to May 6, 1998) among a community sample of women aged 40 to 45 and 50 to 55 years enrolled in a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of a tailored mammography decision aid. Objective breast cancer risk was measured using the 5-year Gail score. Subjective breast cancer risk was measured using perceptions of absolute risk, perceptions of comparative risk, and worry about getting breast cancer. At 12-month follow-up (November 2, 1998, to July 20, 1999), we measured interest in taking a drug to prevent breast cancer.
Among the 1273 women surveyed, 23% were interested in taking a drug to prevent breast cancer; 8% were potentially eligible for tamoxifen therapy (5-year Gail score ≥1.66%). Eligibility for chemoprevention, based on the 5-year Gail score, was not associated with interest in taking a drug to prevent breast cancer. Women who were worried about breast cancer were 3 times more likely to be interested in taking a drug to prevent breast cancer than those who were not worried.
Women's interest in chemoprevention might arise more from worries about getting breast cancer than from their objective risk factors.