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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Sex hormones raise risk

Posted Oct 24 2011 3:47am

Post-menopausalRelating to the menopause, the time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle. women with elevated levels of oestrogenA hormone involved in female sexual development, produced by the ovaries. and testosteroneThe main male sex hormone. have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. 

The study, published in Breast Cancer Research, ranked over 800 women according to their hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. levels and their individual breast cancer risk. Women who had higher oestrogen or androgenA type of steroid hormone that stimulates male development. Testosterone is an androgen. levels had approximately double the usual post-menopausalAfter the menopause - technically only once a woman has had no menstrual period for one year. breast cancer risk with each of the various sex and growth hormones increasing the risk of breast cancer by 16% when their levels were elevated.

Oestrogen was found to have the biggest effect on the risk of breast cancer as these hormones stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Future research should consider the impact of preventing rising levels of sex hormones to prevent this increase of risk.

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