New Breast Cancer Risk Found With Hormone Replacement Therapy
"The commonly held belief that aging routinely requires pharmacological
management has unfortunately led to neglect of diet and lifestyle as the
primary means to achieve healthy aging," they write. "Now is an
appropriate time to reassess this emphasis."
Cosman says the decision to stop -- or start HRT -- isn't easy. "I have
to tell you that I have patients who've been on long term estrogens who don't
want to change. They think they look better, they feel better, the skin is
better, the hair is better. Although this isn't true disease prevention, it
probably is a quality of life issue that has to be considered with some
Eugenia Calle, PhD, director of analytical epidemiology at the American
Cancer Society, reviewed the study for WebMD and says it appears that the risk
of breast cancer with HRT with progestin is greater than first believed. But
she adds that the findings are not surprising. "It really does look like
from these data that if women continue to use these combination products for a
longer period of time, the risks may turn out to be moderate and less
modest," says Calle. "We've been heading in this direction, and we've
known of the association between breast cancer and combination therapy ... that
is not brand new, it's what we suspected. The main contribution of this study
is it gives us a more precise amount of risk that a woman may incur if they use
the combination product for a number of years."
But she adds, "This is one study and there will be others looking that
this." The risk should also be put in perspective. Calle notes, for
example, that people who smoke are 20 to 25 times more likely to develop lung
cancer than are nonsmokers, while women on the combination HRT product were
less than two times as likely to develop breast cancer than were estrogen-alone
users and women who have never used estrogen products.
- An estimated 20% of women over 45 take HRT, either in the form of estrogen
alone or in combination with progestin.
- A new study shows that women taking HRT, especially the combination
formula, experience an increasing risk of breast cancer for each year they have
been on the medication.
- Experts warn physicians and patients to carefully weigh the risks and
benefits of HRT and remind them not to overlook lifestyle changes as an option
to control postmenopausal symptoms.