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Hormone Replacement Therapy and Breast Cancer Risk

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Do the Benefits of HRT Outweigh the Risk? continued...

The known association between HRT and breast cancer has prevented many breast specialists from recommending it for breast cancer survivors. Unfortunately, many women experience menopause symptoms after breast cancer treatment. Some forms of chemotherapy may also cause early menopause in premenopausal women.

In the past, doctors had offered HRT after breast cancer treatment because there weren't clearcut studies showing any harm. However, early in 2004, a study (the HABITS study) was stopped early after it was shown that cancer survivors on HRT were more likely to develop a new or recurrent breast cancer. Doctors now feel it is too risky to treat breast cancer survivors with HRT.

Alternatives to HRT for Protecting Your Bones From Osteoporosis

Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are a newer class of drugs, similar to estrogen, that protect against osteoporosis by increasing bone density, while also protecting against the development of breast cancer.

Evista is a widely used SERM that has been shown to increase bone growth and density and reduce the risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, it does not relieve symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and may actually worsen them. 

Additional steps you can take to prevent and/or treat osteoporosis include: 

  • Performing weight-bearing exercises
  • Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • Taking medications such as bisphosphonates

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on July 02, 2014
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