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Hormone replacement therapy raises risk of breast cancer

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By Jimmy Downs

Sunday April 7, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in the National Cancer Institute confirms that using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) intended to help relieve menopausal symptoms can not only increase the risk of developing breast cancer, but also elevate the risk of dying from the disease.

Analyzing data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, Rowan T. Chlebowski, MD, PhD, from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA and colleagues found estrogen plus progestin users were 55% more likely to develop breast cancer during a 11.3-year follow-up, compared with non-users.

The Women’s Health Initiative  randomized trial, a major hormone replacement therapy trial has already found estrogen plus progestin therapy increased breast cancer incidence and mortality in addition to heart disease risk. 

However, some observational studies found an association between estrogen plus progestin therapy with favorable prognosis of breast cancer.  The current study was intended to provide more evidence to either prove or disprove the association between hormone therapy and risk of breast cancer.

Enrolled in the current study were 41,449 postmenopausal women who had no prior hysterectomy and mammogram negative within two years with 25,328 not using hormones and 16,121 using estrogen and progestin.  During the 11.3-year follow-up, 2236 cases of breast cancer were identified.

It was found that incidence in estrogen plus progestin users were 55 percent higher than that in nonusers.  Women starting to use hormone therapy closer to menopause were found to be at a greater risk of breast cancer and the risk decreased as time from menopause increased.

Hormone therapy users were 32% more likely to die from breast cancer, compared with non-users and 65 % more likely to die from all causes after diagnosis of breast cancer.

The researchers concluded "Consistent with WHI randomized trial findings, estrogen plus progestin use is associated with increased breast cancer incidence. Because prognosis after diagnosis on combined hormone therapy is similar to that of nonusers, increased breast cancer mortality can be expected."

An authoritative organization says that the two major risk factors for breast cancer is hormone replacement therapy and medical radiation which is commonly used in diagnostics and cancer screening and treatment.

Breast cancer is expected to be diagnosed in more than 230,000 women each year in the United States and the disease and its complications kill abou 37,000 annually in the country, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Breast cancer in many cases is preventable.  It is important to follow a healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet.  Generally, vegetarians, compared with meat-eaters were at lower risk for breast cancer and other malignancies.

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