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Hormone Therapy May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

In new analysis, researchers found risk highest when used just before menopause

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Progestin is thought to play a role, too, he added.

Although others have thought that the breast cancers linked with combined hormone therapy are often ones with a somewhat better outlook -- another question Chlebowski thought needed more study -- he did not find that in his new analysis.

The new analysis reinforces the finding that combination hormone therapy is linked with higher breast cancer risk, said Dr. Joanne Mortimer, director of Women's Cancer Programs at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.

Although previous research has found some good effects of hormone therapy on the heart, she and Chlebowski said that has to be weighed against the breast cancer risk found in much other research.

The new analysis also suggests that "the time of starting hormone therapy really matters," Mortimer said. Although the analysis found an association between the two, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Mortimer and Chlebowski agreed that women need to discuss the pros and cons of hormone therapy during menopause with their doctors.

Women should seriously consider whether their symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, are limiting enough to warrant taking hormones, Chlebowski said. Although some women are severely bothered by symptoms, he said, others may be less bothered and can avoid hormone therapy.

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