Hormone Therapy Increases Breast Cancer Mortality Risk, Study Finds
The New York Times: "Hormone treatment after menopause, already known to increase the risk of breast cancer, also makes it more likely that the cancer will be advanced and deadly, a study finds. Women who took hormones and developed breast cancer were more likely to have cancerous lymph nodes, a sign of more advanced disease, and were more likely to die from the disease than were breast cancer patients who had never taken hormones." The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The treatment studied was the most commonly prescribed hormone replacement pill, Prempro, containing estrogens and synthetic progesterone (Grady, 10/19).
NPR's Shots blog: "A note of caution, though: The increased risk of death from breast cancer is small. For every 10,000 women, about 3 die of breast cancer among hormone replacement recipients versus about 2 among those who didn't take the supplements, the study shows. But when you multiply this among the millions of women who once took hormone replacements six million at the peak the impact is sobering" (Knox, 10/20).
The Washington Post: "For years, doctors recommended that women take hormones to alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause to protect their hearts and generally remain more youthful. But eight years ago, the federally funded Women's Health Initiative revealed that hormones' benefits were outweighed by risks, including heart disease and breast cancer. Hormone use plummeted by more than half, although millions of women still take them."
"Since then, women dealing with the life-changing effects of menopause have faced confusing information. Most experts recommend that women who need hormones take the lowest dose for the shortest period of time. Some say that it is safe to use hormones for up to five years; others say that remains unclear" (Stein, 2010).
The Boston Globe: "The new study was the largest randomly controlled clinical trial to look not just at who develops breast cancer, but who dies." The authors also said, "The women on hormone therapy were more likely to have their breast cancer diagnosed at a later stage than women in the placebo group, possibly because hormones make breasts denser and tumors more difficult to spot on mammograms." According to a co-author of the study, "The bottom line is to avoid hormone therapy, except for management of moderate to severe menopausal symptoms that impair quality of life" (Cooney, 2010).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.