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Exemestane is an irreversible inhibitor of the aromatase enzyme, which is a key component in the production of estrogen. The majority of breast cancers are sensitive to the proliferative effects of estrogen. Exemestane is approved for the adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal women with breast cancer after 2 to 3 years of tamoxifen therapy, based on a 32% improvement in disease-free survival compared with 5 years of tamoxifen alone (P < 0.001). Exemestane has also shown clinical benefits as an upfront therapy. The safety profile of exemestane shares some side effects with tamoxifen (hot flashes and arthralgia), but is not associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer or thromboembolic events. This review will discuss in detail the efficacy and safety of exemestane in early breast cancer.
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