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Estrogen Study Provides New Hope For Colon Cancer Treatment

A new research finding by Jennifer Chan and her colleagues from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggests// that the female hormone estrogen may hold important clues for scientists working on new therapies for colon cancer.

Using data from a long-running study of women’s health, the investigators found that postmenopausal women with colon cancer lived longer and had less likelihood of dying of the disease if they had been taking estrogen supplements within five years of their diagnosis. In this new study, published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, investigators examined the effect of estrogen use on the survival of older women already diagnosed with the disease.

While estrogen use has dropped sharply among postmenopausal women in recent years, due to concerns about its role in heart disease and breast cancer, numerous studies have shown it significantly lowers the chances of developing colorectal cancer. The researchers stress that these findings do not mean estrogen should be viewed as a treatment or preventive therapy for colon cancer, considering the other health risks associated with its use. However, the research may guide the development of other, safer colon cancer drugs.

"This study provides a rationale to further study the basic mechanism by which estrogen influences the development and progression of colon cancer," states lead author Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber. "By understanding how estrogen offers potentially beneficial effects in some types of cells yet deleterious effects in others, it may be possible to design therapies that are effective against colon cancer without posing a significant risk of other problems."

Estrogen supplements have been taken by millions of older women as a way of staving off some of the problems associated with menopause, such as hot flashes and bone loss, but the number has declined considerably since 2002. That year, investigators reported that, for many
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