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Long-Term Estrogen Therapy Does Up Breast Cancer Risk: Study
Date:4/2/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Several weeks after a study suggested that women who take estrogen-only hormone replacement to treat menopause symptoms may be at lower risk for developing breast cancer, another, much-larger study finds that when used for longer than 10 years, estrogen-only regimens actually raise a woman's long-term risk for breast cancer.

The new study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, whereas the previous one was partially funded by drug manufacturer Wyeth.

Researchers evaluated follow-up data from the Nurse's Health Study collected from 1980 through 2008. The women in the study were 30 to 55 years old in 1976. Overall, the risk for breast cancer was 88 percent higher among women who had taken estrogen plus progesterone for 10 to 14.9 years, compared to women who did not. This risk more than doubled for women who used estrogen-plus-progesterone therapy for 15 to 19.9 years.

Women who used estrogen-only therapy after menopause had 22 percent increased risk for breast cancer if they used it for 10 to 14.9 years, and 43 percent greater risk if they used it longer than 15 years.

There was no increased risk seen among women who took estrogen for fewer than 10 years. Women did not have an increased risk of dying from breast cancer, the study showed.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) fell from grace after the U.S. Women's Health Initiative study was stopped early in 2002 because HRT was shown to increase the risk of strokes and breast and ovarian cancer. Some subtleties have emerged since that time. For example, short-term use of HRT is now deemed fairly safe for some women who have severe menopausal symptoms. Estrogen-only therapy is reserved for women who have had a hysterectomy; women with an intact uterus who use HRT must take the hormone progestin (synthetic progesterone) with estrog
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