Hormone Therapy for Menopause - more safety fears


Menopause News October 20th 2010

New findings cast yet another shadow on safety of hormone therapy for menopause

Postmenopausal women who take hormone therapy are more likely to get breast cancer than those who do not, according to new findings from the US Women’s Health Initiative study (WHI), published in JAMA today(1).

This new analysis found that women who took combined hormone therapy were more likely to get invasive breast cancer and were more likely to die from breast cancer compared with women who took an identical looking sugar pill (placebo).

The WHI study had to be stopped in 2002 when researchers found that women who had received hormone treatment were at such an increased risk of cancer compared with those who had received placebo, that it was no longer ethical to continue the randomised trial.

Researchers did this latest analysis because they wanted to see what happened over the long term to the women who had taken the hormone therapy compared with those in the placebo group. Their findings, showing that the risk of developing breast cancer increased over time in the hormone treated women are sobering.

There is even more need for women to be cautious about taking hormone therapy for menopause. In an editorial also in JAMA today, health outcomes expert Peter Bach points out that the science supporting the safety of even short term use of hormones is shaky(2).

Difficult though it is to believe, after all these years that hormones have been marketed to menopausal women, the reality is that no-one knows exactly just how risky they are.


References

1) Chlebowski RT, Anderson GL, Gass M et al. Estrogen plus progestin and breast cancer incidence and mortality in postmenopausal women. JAMA 2010; 304: 1684-92.

2) Bach PB. Postmenopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer. An uncertain trade-off. JAMA 2010; 304:1719-20.


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Published October 20th 2010.

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