BACKGROUND: Treatment with tamoxifen or chemotherapy reduces the risk of contralateral breast cancer (CBC). However, it is uncertain how long the protection lasts and whether the protective effect is modified by patient, tumor, or treatment characteristics.
METHODS: The population-based WECARE Study included 1521 cases with CBC and 2212 age- and year of first diagnosis-matched controls with unilateral breast cancer recruited during two phases in the USA, Canada, and Denmark. Women were diagnosed with a first breast cancer before age 55 years during 1985-2008. Abstraction of medical records provided detailed treatment information, while information on risk factors was obtained during telephone interviews. Risk ratios (RRs) and 95 % confidence intervals (CIs) for CBC were obtained from multivariable conditional logistic regression models.
RESULTS: Compared with never users of tamoxifen, the RR of CBC was lower for current users of tamoxifen (RR = 0.73; 95 % CI = 0.55-0.97) and for past users within 3 years of last use (RR = 0.73; 95 % CI = 0.53-1.00). There was no evidence of an increased risk of estrogen receptor-negative CBC associated with ever use of tamoxifen or use for 4.5 or more years. Use of chemotherapy (ever versus never use) was associated with a significantly reduced RR of developing CBC 1-4 years (RR = 0.59; 95 % CI = 0.45-0.77) and 5-9 years (RR = 0.73; 95 % CI = 0.56-0.95) after first breast cancer diagnosis. RRs of CBC associated with tamoxifen or with chemotherapy use were independent of age, family history of breast cancer, body mass index and tumor characteristics of the first breast cancer with the exception that the RR of CBC was lower for lobular histology compared with other histologies.
CONCLUSION: Our findings are consistent with previous studies showing that treatment with tamoxifen or chemotherapy is associated with a lower risk of CBC although the risk reduction appears to last for a limited time period after treatment is completed.