London, Thanasis Gavos

A pill that has been administered as part of her for years breast cancer treatment it will now be given as a preventative treatment to tens of thousands of women by the NHS public health system in England.

Anastrozole it will be given as a 1mg pill once a day for five to postmenopausal women who have a moderate or high risk of developing the disease. According to recent tests, in these cases the pill can reduce the chances of breast cancer by 49%.

It works by reducing the amount of estrogen the body makes by blocking an enzyme called aromatase.

The decision by the NHS has been hailed by health organizations as a “significant step forward” for cases of women with a family history of cancer.

An estimated 289,000 women in England could be eligible for the preventative treatment. It is also estimated that if one in four of them came forward to be prescribed the pill, 2,000 cases of breast cancer in England could be prevented.

Doing so would also have a financial benefit to the NHS, due to avoided treatments, of around £15m.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in England with around 47,000 new diagnoses each year.