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Were you aware of this stunning fact:  many bodybuilders take breast cancer drugs to stop the production of estrogen, produced by their high testosterone levels? Apparently it is a well-known trick to decrease the side effects of having too much estrogen in the body. Weightlifters can go to YouTube and find videos showing them how to inject testosterone and other advice on using hormones, steroids and other performance-enhancing medications and supplements.

It is probably not a surprise to those in the bodybuilding world, but I was surprised to see that these athletes are being advised to take breast cancer drugs. Apparently the massive amounts of testosterone create too much estrogen, which leads to various problems for bodybuilders, including low sex drive and gynecomastia (enlargement of the gland tissue of the male breast).

The two breast cancer medications mentioned most frequently are Arimidex and Tamoxifen.  In some cases the weightlifters are finding doctors who will prescribe these medications for them. Others are turning to online drug warehouses where prescriptions are available, no questions asked.  (MedPage Today, Kristina Fiore, 01-16-14)

“All they do is block estrogen,” Fred Rowlett, president of the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation, said of the nonchalant attitude weight lifters have about taking cancer drugs. “When you don’t have estrogen, you gain nothing but muscle.” He is not speaking for his organization; the list of banned substances on the North American Bodybuilding Federation website is extensive, and includes testosterone as well as Arimidex.

Banned substances are really only relevant for those individuals who plan to compete. What about the tens of thousands of average people who want to increase their muscle strength? And the young men who may feel pressure to look bigger and stronger?  College athletes trying to ‘up’ their game and high school kids—are they taking these drugs as well?

Apparently the drugs are readily available, either the real thing or generics being marketed as the brand name medications. Spokespeople for AstraZeneca, the maker of Arimidex, say they are not aware of products being counterfeited or diverted to underground markets. And, Pfizer, the maker of Aromasin, commonly known as Tamoxifen, did not comment when asked by a reporter for MedPage Today.  (MedPage Today, Kristina Fiore, 01-16-14)   It is hard to believe that a drug company would be unaware of such widespread off-label use of its medications.

There is little information on traditional news sites about this unorthodox use of breast cancer drugs. A Google search revealed hundreds of bodybuilding sites offering advice on how to procure and use the drugs as part of a fitness regime. No one seems to be offering up cautionary information. It may due to the fact that the anti-estrogen medications are not considered performance enhancers—though they are listed as banned substances. And, in 2012, outfielder Marlon Byrd was issued a 50-game suspension after testing positive for Tamoxifen.

Information on cancer websites includes side effects of breast cancer drugs so that patients can be aware of risks. Bodybuilders should be considering these risks as well, but they are probably not consulting doctors or taking their long-term health very seriously.  The young are invincible.

According to, Tamoxifen has been known to cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, impotence, and decreased sexual interest in men. And in general can lead to more severe risks of blood clots, especially in the lungs and legs, stroke, cataracts, mood swings, depression, and loss of libido.

Aromatase Inhibitors (which include Amitrex) can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, angina, heart failure, and hypercholesterolemia, bone loss joint pain, mood swings and depression.

Doping and the use of performance-enhancing drugs continue to be a problem in almost every sport. When usage advice comes from other athletes rather than ethical, medical professionals, there is an absence of vital safety information. There is no rational reason for taking breast cancer drugs in this manner, as a fix for the side effects of improper usage of another drug.  The fact that this is happening is, frankly, somewhat shocking.  Many people will stop at nothing to be bigger, stronger and faster, even if it means dying earlier, perhaps much earlier, than nature intended.


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