A Brief Introduction to Aromatase Inhibitors

A triple board-certified physician specializing in hematology and oncology, Natasha Tiffany, MD, serves as a partner and practicing physician at Hematology Oncology of Salem in Salem, Oregon. Natasha Tiffany, MD, and the medical staff at Hematology Oncology of Salem utilize the latest cancer treatments, therapies, and medications, including aromatase inhibitors.

Aromatase inhibitors are a newer class of drugs that are often used to treat breast cancer or prevent its recurrence following surgery in postmenopausal women. Drugs in this class, which include letrozole, anastrozole, and exemestane, work by inhibiting the action of aromatase, the enzyme responsible for converting androgen into estrogen. These drugs are particularly effective in treating estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers because they reduce the amount of available estrogen, which these types of cancers need to grow.

Either used alone or in combination with other drugs, aromatase inhibitors have been shown to be an effective treatment for both early and metastatic or recurring ER+ breast cancer. These drugs are also often prescribed off-label to treat conditions such as infertility and endometriosis. While they tend to be milder than other cancer drugs, the most common side effects of aromatase inhibitors include joint pain or stiffness, hot flashes, and bone thinning.