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Does Tamoxifen Cause Hair Loss

doestamoxifen cause hair loss

A Brief History of Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen was originally developed in the 1960s to be a contraceptive. While it worked that way in mice, in humans it actually worked in the reverse − meaning it increased fertility. That was no doubt a big whoopsie for the pharmaceutical company, and back to the drawing board for them.

Tamoxifen was produced initially by a British chemical conglomerate, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which in 1993 became Zeneca Group PLC, and in 1998 merged with Astra to become AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.

Tamoxifen was approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration in 1998 after early research indicated it could be beneficial for those with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer.

In 2006 AstraZeneca decided to stop making tamoxifen. Did they know something that they weren’t divulging? Since then tamoxifen has been made in its generic form of tamoxifen citrate, or Nolvadex, by Mylan Laboratories, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Roxane Laboratories.

Why Some Doctors Recommend Tamoxifen

Researchers have observed that some breast cancer cells rely on estrogen to grow − this type of breast cancer is called estrogen receptor positive (ER+). This form of breast cancer is the most prevalent, with two out of every three cases of breast cancer being hormone receptor positive.

Tamoxifen is classified as a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator), meaning that it can either block or activate the action of estrogen, depending upon the location of the estrogen receptors in the body. The mechanism of action of tamoxifen is to block estrogen at the receptor sites in cells, thus competing with the body’s own estrogen.

The thinking is that tamoxifen inhibits or slows the growth of ER+ tumors. Deprived of a steady supply of estrogen, cells in an ER+ tumor are unable to thrive and the tumor’s ability to spread is reduced.

It sounds like a perfect scenario, right? This is why tamoxifen was touted to be a wonder drug when it was first released.

Tamoxifen Side Effects: Why More Women Are Opting Out of Taking Tamoxifen

The list of side effects (some of them life-threatening) associated with taking tamoxifen is lengthy. True, not everyone suffers from side effects, but we are discovering that some women don’t metabolize the drug very well. For those who have tried the drug and do suffer from side effects, these can be so life-altering and impactful to their quality-of-life − they feel they are losing their minds.

The more common tamoxifen side effects include:

  • Absent, missed, or irregular periods
  • Back aches
  • Brain fog and trouble concentrating
  • Decrease in urinary output
  • Depressed moods
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hot flashes
  • Hair loss or hair thinning
  • Irritability
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Night sweats
  • Redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally upper chest
  • Skin changes
  • Skin rashes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Swelling of the fingers, hands, feet, or lower legs
  • Troubled breathing at rest
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal tissue thinning causing pain during intercourse.

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