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Estrogen-Only Hormone Therapy May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk for Some
Date:12/10/2010

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that seems to counter the prevailing wisdom that any form of hormone replacement therapy raises the risk of breast cancer, a new look at some old data suggests that estrogen-only hormone therapy might protect a small subset of postmenopausal women against the disease.

"Exogenous estrogen [such as hormone therapy] is actually protective" in women who have a low risk for developing breast tumors, said study author Dr. Joseph Ragaz, a medical oncologist and clinical professor in the School of Population & Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

With his colleagues, Ragaz took another look at data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, a national trial that has focused on ways to prevent breast and colorectal cancer, as well as heart disease and fracture risk, in postmenopausal women. The team planned to present its findings Thursday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas. Research presented at medical meetings is not analyzed by outside experts, unlike studies that appear in peer-reviewed medical journals, and all such findings should be considered preliminary.

Launched in 1991, the WHI includes more than 161,000 U.S. women between the ages of 50 and 79. Two groups were part of the trial -- women who had had hysterectomies and took estrogen alone as hormone replacement therapy and a group that took estrogen plus progestin hormone replacement therapy.

The combination therapy trial was halted in 2002 after it became clear those women were at increased risk for heart disease and breast cancer.

In the new look at the estrogen-only group, Ragaz said, "we looked at women who did not have high-risk features." They found that women with no prior history of benign breast disease had a 43 percent reduction breast cancer risk on estrogen; women with no family history with a f
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