Hormone Therapy May Skew Mammograms
Abnormal Mammograms Found in Some Women Taking Estrogen and Progestin, Study Shows
The Experts Weigh In
Hormone therapy can make the breasts denser, and denser breasts are harder to image.
But earlier findings by Chlebowski and colleagues suggest that changes in breast density alone do not fully explain the increase in abnormal mammograms seen in women taking combined hormone therapy.
He says that his previous research has not shown an increase in mammograms that require biopsies in women taking estrogen alone.
American Cancer Society Director of Screening Robert Smith, PhD, says the findings add to the evidence that the risks of combined hormone therapy outweigh the benefits for many menopausal women.
"Unless a woman's quality of life is completely compromised (by menopause symptoms), on balance she would be better off avoiding hormones," he tells WebMD.
But North American Menopause Society incoming President Jo Ann Pinkerton, MD, tells WebMD that the breast cancer risk associated with short-term use of combined hormones is quite small for menopausal women.
Clinicians now routinely prescribe lower doses of hormones than were given to the women in the WHI trial in an effort to further reduce the risk.
"We have been using lower doses for some time and we've found that in most cases they are just as effective for relieving symptoms," she says.
Jan Shifren, MD, says she believes most women who will accept a slight increase risk in actual breast cancer will not be deterred by the new findings.
Shifren is an associate professor of ob-gyn at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
"I don't think this study changes the risk-benefit analysis for menopausal women, and I don't think it will change the minds of many women who have decided they need this treatment," she tells WebMD.