Weekly Health Update:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Breast Cancer Risk
By, Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS
The information in this column is intended for informational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or recommendations by the author. Please consult with your physician before making any lifestyle or medication changes, or if you have any other concerns regarding your health.
Welcome to Weekly Health Update
“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”
OCTOBER IS NATIONAL BREAST CANCER
The rising incidence of breast cancer, year-after-year, over the past 50 years in the United States (and in many other industrialized countries) has been attributed to a variety of factors, including environmental contaminants, rising obesity levels, and increased compliance with annual screening mammograms, among others. However, one factor that has been given inadequate attention, in my view, is that of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), despite nearly a century of data showing a strong linkage between lifetime exposure to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone and the risk of developing breast cancer.
In 2002, the enormous, randomized, prospective, blinded Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study published its preliminary results, and prematurely terminated its combination HRT study because of an alarming increase in the incidence of breast cancer in the group of women who had been secretly randomized to receive combination HRT medications for menopausal symptoms.
Despite subsequent updates from the WHI, which have shown, essentially, a doubling of breast cancer risk after more than 5 years of HRT use, there was initially a great deal of resistance to the WHI’s findings (and the findings of other similar clinical research trials) linking HRT use with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Now, a new national Canadian public health study offers additional powerful clinical research data linking HRT use with breast cancer risk, and reveals the equally strong link between declining HRT use and the declining breast cancer incidence in Canada. This study appears in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In this study, 1,200 women between the ages of 50 and 69 participated in the National Population Health Survey between 1996 and 2006. Just prior to the 2002 release of the WHI study’s results, 13 percent of these women regularly used combination HRT. By December 2004, only 5 percent of the postmenopausal women participating in this study were still taking HRT medications. During this same period, the incidence of breast cancer in this large group of Canadian women decreased by about 10 percent. (Importantly, compliances rates with screening mammograms did not change during the course of this clinical research study.)
Thus, between 2002 and 2004, when HRT use significantly declined, the incidence of breast cancer decreased by about 10 percent in Canada. Moreover, this significant decrease in breast cancer incidence occurred without any change in mammogram rates.
This study, as with other recent studies, adds to the overwhelming research data linking HRT use with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. As I tell my own patients who are approaching menopause, it is best to avoid HRT altogether. If you are already taking HRT medications, then ask your doctor to help you in weaning yourself off of these medications.
For a deeper evidence-based discussion of the links between HRT and breast cancer risk, order your copy of my new book,“ A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” fromAmazon,Barnes & Noble,Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!
I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit our premier global health information website every month. (As of 9/16/2010, more than 1,000,000 health-conscious people have logged onto Weekly Health Update so far this year!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.
Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physicianbeforemaking any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:
Send your feedback to Dr. Wascher at:
Copyright 2007 - 2010
Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS
All rights reserved
Dr. Wascher's Archives:
10-3-2010: Mammograms Between 40 and 49 Years of Age
9-19-2010: Fruits and Vegetables Improve Memory
9-12-2010: Low-Carb Diet and Risk of Death
8-1-2010: Physician Error
7-25-2010: Obesity and Cancer Risk
6-27-2010: Soy, Curcumin & Prostate Cancer Risk
5-30-2010: Medical Research Studies & “Spin”
5-9-2010: Soy Foods & Stomach Cancer Risk
4-18-2010: Coffee Improves HDL Cholesterol Levels
3-28-2010: Aspirin & Breast Cancer Survival
3-21-2010: Obesity, Alcohol & Liver Disease
3-14-2010: Nuts, Diet & Obesity
2-28-2010: Soy Isoflavones & Recurrent Prostate Cancer
2-14-2010: Pancreatic Cancer Risk, Sodas & Juice
1-31-2010: Concord Grape Juice Improves Memory
1-24-2010: Mozart, Music, Babies & Health
1-17-2010: Breast Cancer, Physical Therapy & Lymphedema
1-3-2010: Ginkgo Biloba, Memory & Cognitive Health
12-20-2009: CT Scans & Cancer Risk
11-29-2009: Exercise & Prostate Cancer Risk
11-22-2009: Genistein (Soy Isoflavone) & Prostate Cancer
11-15-2009: Breast Cancer Treatment & Chronic Pain
1-8-2009: Vitamin D & Breast Cancer Risk
11-1-2009: Exercise & Prostate Cancer Risk
10-25-2009: HPV Virus & Risk of Breast Cancer
10-11-2009: Vitamin D & Falls in the Elderly
10-4-2009: Surgery, NSQIP, Complications & Death
9-27-2009 Stress, Heart Disease, Exercise & Death
9-20-2009: Vitamin D & Colorectal Cancer Survival
9-13-2009: H1N1 Swine Flu Update
9-7-2009: Green Tea, Aging & Lifespan
8-30-2009: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Diet & Fiber
8-23-2009: Update on Prostate Cancer and Cryotherapy
8-2-2009: Honesty, Dishonesty & Brain Function
7-26-2009: Coronary Artery CT Scans & Cancer Risk
7-12-2009: Breast Cancer & Metformin (Glucophage)
7-5-2009: Prostate Cancer & Green Tea
6-21-2009: Red Yeast Rice, Statins & Cholesterol
6-7-2009: Diet, Soy & Breast Cancer Risk
5-31-2009: Diet and Prostate Cancer Risk
5-24-2009: Diabetes, Glucose Control & Death
5-10-2009: Hemorrhoids & Surgery
4-26-2009: Are We Really Losing the War on Cancer?
4-19-2009: Exercise in Middle Age & Risk of Death
4-12-2009: Can Chronic Stress Harm Your Heart?
3-15-2009: Depression, Stress, Anger & Heart Disease
10-26-2008: Smoking & Quality of Life
10-19-2008: Agent Orange & Prostate Cancer
10-12-2008: Pomegranate Juice & Prostate Cancer
9-21-2008: Does Tylenol® (Acetaminophen) Cause Asthma?
4-27-2008: Stents vs. Bypass Surgery for Coronary Artery Disease; The “DASH” Hypertension Diet & Cardiovascular Disease Prevention; Testosterone Therapy for Women with Decreased Sexual Desire & Function
4-6-2008: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Pap Smear Results & Cervical Cancer; Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection & Oral Cancer; Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) & the Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
12-16-2007: Honey vs. Dextromethorphan vs. No Treatment for Kids with Night-Time Cough, Acupuncture & Hot Flashes in Women with Breast Cancer, Physical Activity & the Risk of Death, Mediterranean Diet & Mortality