Oestrogen is known to influence blood lipid levels and though its cardioprotective effects are less clear than once thought, there remains concern that reduction of oestrogen levels during hormonal treatment for breast cancer may have an adverse effect on cardiovascular risk. While tamoxifen has been shown to improve lipid profiles, the aromatase inhibitors have a very different mode of action and do not possess the oestrogen-agonistic effects of tamoxifen. At present, there are few data on the effects of these agents on lipid profiles. Available data are mixed, but suggest that the different aromatase inhibitors have different effects on lipid profiles. Some studies show anastrozole as generally having little effect on lipids, while others have indicated adverse effects on lipid profiles/increased hypercholesterolaemia. Letrozole has been associated with adverse effects on lipid profiles in some studies, including BIG 1-98, but short-term data from randomised trials do not show increased cardiovascular morbidity. By contrast, exemestane, which has been studied in slightly more detail, may either have little effect or may be associated with slightly improved lipid profiles. In general, the changes have been small and are likely to be of little relevance in women with advanced breast cancer, but if these agents come to be used in early breast cancer, their impact on lipid profiles may become more important. Many studies are currently underway with the aromatase inhibitors, with safety assessments including monitoring lipid levels. The results of these studies are keenly awaited
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