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How Aromatase Inhibitors Work

Kenneth D. Nahum

New Jersey physician Kenneth D. Nahum practices oncology and hematology at Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA). In addition, Dr. Kenneth D. Nahum has served as the principle and co-investigator on numerous drug studies, including several on aromatase inhibitors (drugs that lower the production of estrogen).

Aromatase inhibitors are commonly used to treat estrogen-receptor-positive cancers, such as breast cancer. The inhibitors may also be prescribed by physicians to help patients with fertility problems or gynecomastia, a condition in which too much estrogen in men causes the breast tissue to enlarge.

In men and women, estrogen and androgen hormones are present in different concentrations. Androgen hormones are converted into estrogen hormones because of the aromatase enzyme.
Aromatase inhibitors prevent this enzyme from acting, thus reducing the levels of estrogen in men and women. However, these inhibitors do not affect estrogen production in the ovaries.
For this reason, aromatase inhibitors are primarily used in women who are postmenopausal or are undergoing treatment that suppresses the ovaries’ normal functioning. Many physicians recommend aromatase inhibitors as part of a patient’s initial treatment due to its effectiveness in treating early-stage breast cancer.

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