Journal Article

Tamoxifen induces endometrial and vaginal cancer in rats in the absence of endometrial hyperplasia

Philip Carthew, Richard E. Edwards, Barbara M. Nolan, Elizabeth A. Martin, Robert T. Heydon, Ian N.H. White and Mary J. Tucker

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 21, issue 4, pages 793-797
Published in print April 2000 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online April 2000 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/21.4.793
Tamoxifen induces endometrial and vaginal cancer in rats in the absence of endometrial hyperplasia

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Tamoxifen was administered orally to neonatal rats on days 2–5 after birth and the subsequent effects on the uterus were characterized, morphometrically, over the following 12 months. Tamoxifen inhibited development of the uterus and glands in the endometrium, indicating a classical oestrogen antagonist action. Between 24 and 35 months after tamoxifen treatment there was a significant increase in the incidence (26%) of uterine adenocarcinomas and a 9% incidence of squamous cell carcinomas of the vagina/cervix in the absence of any oestrogen agonist effect in the uterus. This demonstrates that an oestrogen agonist effect is not an absolute requirement for the carcinogenic effect of tamoxifen in the reproductive tract of the rat. The unopposed oestrogen agonist effect of tamoxifen on the endometrium may not be the only factor involved in the development of endometrial cancers. It is possible that tamoxifen causes these tumours via a genotoxic mechanism similar to that seen in rat liver. However, using 32P-post-labelling we failed to find evidence of tamoxifen-induced DNA adducts in the uterus. Tamoxifen may affect hormonal imprinting of oestrogen receptor responses in stem cells of the uterus, causing reproductive tract cancers to arise at a later time, in the same way as has been proposed for diethylstilbestrol. If these rodent data extrapolate to humans, then women who are taking tamoxifen as a chemopreventative may have an increased risk of vaginal/cervical cancer, as well as endometrial cancer.

Keywords: DES, diethylstilbestrol; ER, oestrogen receptor; NBF, 10% neutral buffered formalin.

Journal Article.  3112 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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