is estimated that cancer ends a human life every minute in
the United States, and that more than three million others
currently suffer from some form of the disease. Among women,
breast cancer is the second most common cancer and the leading
cause of cancer deaths.
After menopause, many women use hormone replacement therapy
(HRT) to compensate for the body's natural decline in hormone
production. However, as a study in the Journal of the American
Medical Association suggests, the risks associated with
HRT use may outweigh the benefits.
As part of a nationwide breast cancer screening program called
the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project, 46,355
postmenopausal women were evaluated for duration and type
of hormone use and monitored for the incidence of breast cancer.
Of particular interest was the influence of estrogen, progestin,
or a combination of the two hormones on the risk of developing
During the 15-year study, 2,082 cases of breast cancer were
identified. Women taking the progestin-estrogen combination
were at higher risk for the disease than women taking estrogen
alone, and this risk increased more rapidly in the combination
therapy group vs. the estrogen group per year of use.
The authors note that their data suggest that "the estrogen-progestin
regimen increases breast cancer risk beyond that associated
with estrogen alone." Talk to your doctor about the risks
and benefits associated with hormone replacement therapy.
Schairer C, Lubin J, Troisi R, et al. Menopausal estrogen
and estrogen-progestin replacement therapy and breast cancer
risk. Journal of the American Medical Association,
Jan. 26, 2000: Vol. 283, No. 4, pp485-91.