Post-menopausal women who experience new onset breast tenderness after starting combination hormone therapy may have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who don't experience breast tenderness, a study by researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has shown. One reason for this may be that their breasts are becoming more dense.
The new onset tenderness was much more pronounced after initiation of estrogen and progestin therapy than in women getting estrogen therapy alone. The association between new onset breast tenderness and changes in breast density also was more pronounced in the women getting the combination hormone therapy, said study first author Dr. Carolyn Crandall, a professor of general internal medicine and a scientist with UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Multiple population studies have shown that higher breast density is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. In women with extremely dense breasts, the cancer risk can be four to six times higher than for women whose breasts are not dense, Crandall said.
Although the present study design did not permit Crandall to directly test whether combined hormone therapyinduced breast tenderness represents increased breast cell proliferation, mammographic density is felt to be an indirect measure of breast tissue growth.
The study appears this week in the early online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
For this prospective study, Crandall and her team examined the association between new onset breast tenderness and change in mammographic density after initiation of hormone therapy in 695 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). Launched in 1991, the WHI consisted of a set of clinical trials and an observational study involving161,808 generally healthy, postmenopausal women.
Crandall looked at women on the combination therapy as well as wome
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University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences