The effect of tamoxifen and transdermal 17beta-estradiol on cerebral arterial vessels: A randomized controlled study

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Our objective was to study the effects of tamoxifen on cerebral arterial reactivity.


We studied the reactivity of both the internal carotid artery and the middle cerebral artery during a 12-month period of administration of either oral tamoxifen or transdermal estradiol or no treatment. A total of 45 healthy postmenopausal women who had undergone hysterectomy were followed up. Patients were randomly allocated to treatment with either oral tamoxifen 20 mg/day or transdermal estradiol 50 micro gram/day or nothing (15 patients in each group). They all underwent Doppler examinations of the internal carotid artery and middle cerebral artery at the beginning of the study and after 2, 6, and 12 months of treatment. The pulsatility index was measured.


In the women given transdermal estradiol the pulsatility index of both the internal carotid artery and the middle cerebral artery was significantly reduced compared with that in the controls. Tamoxifen did not induce variations of pulsatility index in either artery during all the study period. The difference between the effect of the two drugs on the pulsatility index of both arteries was highly significant.


Our findings demonstrate that tamoxifen does not cause any variation in the pulsatility index of cerebral arteries. The action of transdermal estradiol on the pulsatility index of cerebral arteries in postmenopausal women is the expression of a generalized action of estrogens on arterial vessels, and if this expression plays a role in the protective effect of hormone replacement therapy on risk of cardiovascular disease, tamoxifen treatment in healthy postmenopausal women should be considered with renewed caution. (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1998;178:801-5.)

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