Lower Risk of Breast Cancer Linked to Reduced Hormone Therapy

December 6, 2010

For the first time scientists can show a direct link between reduced hormone therapy and declines in breast cancer. The researchers saw such a striking decrease, they believe they also have uncovered indirect evidence that hormones promote breast tumour growth. The declines occurred in the age groups that most widely embraced then abandoned hormone therapy.

The use of hormone therapy surged in the 1980s and ’90s but at the same time, there was a steady increase in the rate of breast cancer. In mid-2002, following a landmark report of the Women’s Health Initiative indicating that the risks of oestrogen plus progestin therapy outweighed its benefits, hormone therapy fell into widespread disfavour with millions of women either giving it up or looking for alternatives.

So HRT has long been associated with a high breast cancer risk and the best advice if you are taking it is to use the lowest dose possible for the shortest time you can in order to relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Many doctors assume that women can safely take hormones for four or five years but Dr. Rowan T. Chlebowski, first author of an article published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association and an oncologist at U.C.L.A. Medical Center said “I don’t think you can say that now. I know some people have to take it because they can’t function, but the message now is that you really should try to stop after a year or two.”

If you are taking HRT for osteoporosis prevention, or want more information on natural hormone alternatives, then can I suggest you study the articles on my other health site at www.bio-hormone-health for a fuller picture.

The study has been published online by the Journal of Clinical Oncology and senior author Karla Kerlikowske, MD said “We show that the incidence of breast cancer decreases if you take the hormones away. The fact that we’re continuing to see a decrease in invasive cancer means that the effects of stopping the hormones may be long-lasting.”
The study uncovered a clear pattern: women 50 to 69 years old had the highest level of hormone usage — and showed the biggest reduction in invasive breast cancer when they stopped, from 40 cancers per 10,000 mammograms in 2002 to 31 cases in 2005, 35 cancers in 2006. There was a parallel drop in cancer among women older than age 70.

Strikingly, the scientists found that among women 40 to 49 years old, who were less likely to have been on hormone therapy, breast cancer rates did not change over the course of the decade studied. The study supports the idea that in giving such artificial hormones it was also promoting tumour growths.

Previous research has found that hormone treatment can cause delays in diagnosis by increasing breast density, making tumours harder to see on mammograms. Delayed diagnosis may increase the risk of successful treatment and it is also possible that hormones may feed the growth of some breast cancers or the blood vessels that tumours need to grow and spread.


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