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Some Older Breast Cancer Patients Can Skip Hormone Therapy: Study
Date:8/31/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Some breast cancer patients over the age of 60 who have small, early-stage tumors can skip hormone therapy without increasing their risk of death, a new study says.

The women in the study had tumors that were hormone-receptor positive, which means they require estrogen to grow. Among other things, hormone therapy for these tumors is designed to starve the breast cancer cells by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body.

But this therapy also has side effects that can be debilitating and occasionally even life-threatening, so the researchers wanted to determine its benefit for women with a low risk of cancer spread.

To do so, researchers from Denmark followed 3,197 women with breast cancer, ages 35 to 74, who had no lymph node involvement. They were not given the hormone therapy that is typically given to women who have hormone receptor-positive tumors.

The researchers followed the women for a median of nearly 15 years. They found that those aged 60 and older with smaller tumors did not have any greater risk of death than the general population in the same age range. (Tumors of 10 millimeters or less were considered "smaller.")

In recent years, the trend has been to give all women with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer hormone treatment after surgical treatment, said study author Dr. Peer Christiansen, professor at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. "But based on this study, benefit is not expected in the low-risk group in question."

The research is published in the Aug. 31 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

During the follow-up period, 970 women died. The risk of dying was higher than that of the general population in those with larger tumors, 11 millimeters to 20 millimeters in size. There was also an excess risk of dying in younger women, aged 35 to 59, compared to the
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