First Study Linking Hormone Therapy & Mortality From Breast Cancer

Hormone replacement therapy: image via mednews.itHormone replacement therapy: image via Another study from the Women's Health Initiative 11 year follow-up has revealed, for the first time, that women who receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are twice as likely to die from breast cancer than those who do not receive the therapy.  This information is contrary to the prevailing notion that estrogen plus progesterone therapy has little impact on severity or mortality of breast cancer.

The Women's Health Initiative was set up in 1991 by the National Institutes of Health.  It followed more than 160,000 generally healthy, post-menopausal, women who participated in studies testing the effects of hormone therapy, diet, calcium, and vitamin D supplements on heart disease, fractures, and breast and colorectal cancer.

One of those studies, led by Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, examined the association of HRT, specifically estrogen plus progesterone treatment, with severity and mortality of breast cancer.

The investigators found that HRT patients were 33 percent more likely to have cancers that spread to the lymph nodes, as those patients who received placebo treatments. 

"All the scary cancers with unfavorable prognoses were also increased," Chlebowski told Reuters news.  "And then, for the first time, we show deaths from breast cancer are significantly increased as well."

The actual deaths from breast cancer were 2.6 per 10,000 among HRT patients and 1.3 per 10,000 among patients who were on placebos.

This study, Estrogen Plus Progestin and Breast Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Postmenopausal Women is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, October 21, 2010.


Reuters, Women's Health Initiative

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