HRT And The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Q: I heard that the National Institutes of Health just canceled a huge
study on hormone replacement therapy because it increased the risk of breast
cancer. Is this true? I take HRT for my hot flashes; should I stop?
Dr. Donnica: It is true. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has
stopped part of the Women's Health Initiative early because of an increased
risk of invasive breast cancer found in the group taking estrogen plus progestin.
This large multi-center trial also found increases in coronary heart disease,
stroke, and pulmonary embolism in those women as well. While the combination
HRT group also showed noteworthy benefits--including fewer cases of hip fractures
and a reduced risk of colon cancer--the oversight committee decided that on
balance the potential harm was greater than the potential benefit for women
in that study. The study group taking estrogen alone, by the way, was not affected
by this decision and will continue. Does this study apply to you? It did not
include the treatment of menopausal symptoms in their risk/benefit evaluation,
which sounds like the main reason you take HRT. I do not recommend that any
woman currently taking HRT make any snap decisions about her therapy based upon
this news. I do recommend that any woman with questions about how this news
applies to her should speak with her healthcare provider, and review her own
personal risk-benefit profile. As always, I recommend that all women in their
40's and above have an annual physical exam, an annual mammogram, and an annual
Pap smear with a rectal exam whether or not they take HRT. During your annual
visit, you should also review all current medicines (including non-prescription
products and supplements) with your physician.
For more information on HRT, click here.
Created: 7/11/2002  - Donnica Moore, M.D.
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