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Is there a relationship between Breast Cancer and HRT?

Are you confused about hormones and breast cancer?  While the relationship between estrogen and breast cancer is not crystal clear, doctors generally agree that estrogen does not cause breast cancer, although it may cause an existing cancer to grow.  Recent good news from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, however, showed that menopausal women who had been treated for breast cancer who THEN took hormone replacement therapy not only had a greatly LOWER risk of their cancer recurring, but also had a much lower death rate than women treated for breast cancer who did not take estrogen.  This is great news.

What else do we know about hormones and breast cancer?  First, we know that breast cancer increases with age.  8 out of 10 breast cancers are in women over 50, whether or not they take estrogen.  Another risk factor is a woman's lifelong exposure to her own hormones; the longer she produces estrogen, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. Women are at lower risk for breast cancer if they got their periods late, have not become overweight, or go through menopause early.

Over the last 25 years, more than 50 studies have evaluated hormone therapy and breast cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, these studies varied widely in design and have inconsistent results. For more information, click here.

Created: 7/24/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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