A hormone treatment designed for men with prostate cancer can also help tackle breast cancer in younger women, new research has shown.
Drugs such as Zoladex have the effect of chemically castrating men by halting their production of testosterone. Without the male hormone to fuel its growth, the cancer is held in check.
Scientists now believe the drugs, known as luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists, may combat breast cancer in a similar way.
Like prostate cancer, most types of breast cancer are stimulated by sex hormones - in this case oestrogen.
LHRH drugs interfere with oestrogen production just as they do testosterone, by affecting a "switch" in the brain which regulates production of the sex hormones.
Research in The Lancet shows that using LHRH agonists on top of normal chemotherapy or tamoxifen to treat women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer can provide an additional benefit.
Recurrence of breast cancer is reduced by almost 13% and death after recurrence by 15%. However, the combined treatments are only effective in women under 40.
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