Breast Cancer, Aromatase Inhibitors, and Bone Density


Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), such as Arimidex, Aromasin, and Femara, have proven to be more effective than previous hormonal treatments for treating both early and advanced breast cancer in post-menopausal women whose tumors are dependent on estrogen. Compared with tamoxifen, these drugs are less likely to cause blood clots or raise the risk of endometrial cancer. As a result, AIs are used both in patients with early breast cancer and in those with metastatic disease.

The downside is that AIs increase the risk of osteoporosis (severe thinning of the bones) and bone fractures.

If you are taking an AI, you should:

  • Have a bone mineral density test when you begin taking the drug.
  • Make sure your bone density continues to be checked regularly during AI treatment

If the tests reveal osteoporosis, you can reduce the risk of suffering a fracture by appropriate treatment with calcium and vitamin D supplements, and bone-strengthening drugs called bisphosphonates.

Jennifer Ligibel, MD, measured the rates of bone density testing among women taking AIs.

A recent report led by Jennifer Ligibel, MD, a breast oncologist in the Susan Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, looked at records of more than 9,000 women who took AIs between 2002 and 2008. The new study was the first to measure the rates of bone-density testing in this population.

  • Only 41.6 percent of patients received bone density testing when starting the therapy.
  • In the subset of women who took aromatase inhibitors for at least two years, just 59.9 percent underwent testing during their first two years on the drugs.

“If these patterns continue,” the report warns, “many women who are cured of their early-stage breast cancers could develop bone loss and fractures as a result of their cancer therapy.”

These statistics are worrisome, says Ligibel. “There needs to be more awareness that if you’re on an aromatase inhibitor, you should have your bone density checked with some degree of regularity.”

Comments Sort By Newest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blue Captcha Image


Latest Tweets

Dana-Farber @danafarber
Join us on 12/17 to discuss quality of life & end of life w/ your care team & loved ones. #DFCIchat #DFCIpallcare
Dana-Farber @danafarber
"Instead of making his decisions for him, we decided to help Matt take charge of his treatment." #yacsm
Dana-Farber @danafarber
Discussing tips for determining your priorities about quality of life & end of life with your loved ones. #DFCIchat

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-442-3324

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.