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Breast Cancer Health Center

U.S. Breast Cancer Rates No Longer Declining

Researchers Say an Earlier Decline Due to Reduced Hormone Use Appears to Have Stopped
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Results Not Unexpected

"It's not necessarily that surprising," says Stephanie Bernik, MD, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who reviewed the findings for WebMD.

"Most women stopped taking hormone replacement just for menopausal symptoms," she says. Just 4.2% of white women ages 50-59 took the hormone therapy in 2008, the researchers found.

''With that we expected to see a drop in the rate of breast cancer shortly after that time period," she says. "The thought was it would again stabilize, which I think is what is happening."

Susan Love, MD, president of the Susan Love Research Foundation, agrees there are no surprises."It is likely that the women who were going to stop [hormone therapy] did and that the rates will stabilize at a new lower level as was seen in this study."

She does wonder, however, what is behind the increase in ER-positive cancers and decrease in ER-negative cancers in women in their 40s.

Besides considering the rate of breast cancer, Bernik says, it's important to look at breast cancer survival, which has been increasing. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, according to the American Cancer Society.

On an individual level, women hoping to reduce breast cancer risk can take a number of steps, Bernik says, including getting mammogram screenings regularly, eating well with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.

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