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Breast Cancer Risk & Hormone Therapy

Posted Nov 16 2009 12:00am
Ever since the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial, it has been known that postmenopausal hormone therapy (estrogen + progestin) increases breast cancer risk.  For this reason, physicians typically recommend that hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms be taken for as short a period of time as possible.  New breast cancer research points out one of the potential reasons for the increased breast cancer risk associated with postmenopausal hormone therapy.

In this new study, researchers studied nearly 2.5 million mammograms taken between 1996 and 2005 in order to examine atypical ductal hyperplasia and other breast cancer risk factors.  Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) is a benign condition where abnormal cells grown in the ducts of the breast.  While ADH is a non-cancerous condition, its presence is a breast cancer risk factor.  Numerous relationships were examined in this study including associations between ADH, hormone therapy, and age among others.  Some of the more interesting findings included:
  • Atypical ductal hyperplasia was present in 1,064 breast biopsies
  • Atypical ductal hyperplasia was present in 833 breast cancers
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy declined from 35% to 11%
  • Both atypical ductal hyperplasia and breast cancer were significantly associated with use of postmenopausal hormone therapy.
This is interesting breast cancer research that might provide some additional insight into the mechanisms behind the increased breast cancer risk associated with postmenopausal hormone therapy.  The fact that atypical ductal hyperplasia decreased with decreasing hormone use, suggests that postmenopausal hormone therapy might be one cause of the development of this breast cancer risk factor.  Fortunately, the breast cancers linked with ADH were generally a lower grade of breast cancer.  While postmenopausal hormone therapy use has declined, this research helps clarify how some breast cancers might develop.  For anyone taking postmenopausal hormone therapy, it is important to follow your doctor's usage directions.

Whether you are on postmenopausal hormone therapy or not, there are things you can do to lower your personal breast cancer risk.  To learn some of the diet and lifestyle changes you can make, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at
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