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Combo hormone therapy has increased breast cancer risk over estrogen alone
Date:11/18/2011

en and progestin compared to estrogen alone have a more marked effect on breast tissue," Crandall said. "One theory is that there may be more growth of breast tissue, making the breasts more dense, when women take the combination therapy."

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.

Women taking estrogen did have breast tenderness, though not as much as those on the combination therapy, and it clearly didn't signal an increased risk of breast cancer. Crandall cautioned that women taking hormone therapy in general are only at a slight risk for developing breast cancer overall. A previous study estimated that, out of 10,000 women who take combination estrogen plus progestin hormone therapy for one year, eight additional women developed breast cancer than would have normally have been expected to get the disease.

"We don't want to incite panic because breast cancer is rare in women taking hormone therapy, but the point is that women are terrified of getting breast cancer as a result of menopausal hormone therapy," Crandall said. "Where I think this study would be important is for women already on either combination hormone therapy or estrogen alone. If they do develop breast tenderness, it would be good for them to know the results of this study and to consider discussing them with their physician."

Crandall said it's too early to call for an increase in the frequency of clinical breast exams and mammograms in women on hormone therapy based on these studies. However, a woman on hormone therapy who experiences new onset breast tenderness should be vigilant about getting her regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.

One finding in this study was expected, that estrogen and progestin has a greater impact
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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