"I'm going to die of something anyway": Women's perceptions of tamoxifen for breast cancer risk reduction

Debora A Paterniti, Joy Melnikow, James Nuovo, Stuart Henderson, Michael DeGregorio, Miriam Kuppermann, Robert Nease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate how ethnically diverse women who are eligible for tamoxifen prophylaxis because of their breast cancer risk decide about tamoxifen use for risk reduction. Design: A qualitative intervention pilot study used focus groups to discuss the use of tamoxifen and to identify the concerns of ethnically diverse women about the preventive use of this drug. Focus group discussion involved exploration of the benefits and risks of tamoxifen prophylaxis, presentation of a standardized educational intervention, and focused discussion on attitudes about tamoxifen for prevention. Prominent themes emerged from iterative review of focus group transcripts. Participants: Twenty-seven high risk African-American, White, and Latina women, 61-78 years of age, from the Sacramento area. Results: Fear of breast cancer was not prominent, and participants were less inclined to take tamoxifen as preventive therapy after receiving information. Decisions were based on participants' understandings of competing risks and benefits. Specifically, participants expressed limited willingness to take medication with potential serious side effects for risk reduction and were unwilling to discontinue hormone replacement therapy. Uneasiness about the reliability of scientific studies surfaced in the focus groups comprised of White and Latina women. African-American women described faith as important to prevention. Conclusions: Women were wary of taking a drug for a disease they might not develop. Women felt they had options other than tamoxifen to reduce their risk of breast cancer, including early detection, diet, faith, and complementary and alternative therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-372
Number of pages8
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Breast cancer prevention
  • Decision-making
  • Ethnicity
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine(all)


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