Monday, March 7, 2011

Hormones During Menopause? The Timing Is Critical


Delaying drugs reduces risk for breast cancer
Timing plays an important role in the relationship between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer risk, according to a huge new study from the United Kingdom. Taking the drugs around the time of menopause carries significantly more risk for the disease than starting them later, after a gap of at least five years, the study found. And while the study confirms that breast cancer risk rises with increasing time on the drugs, even women who took them for less than five years had more breast cancers than nonusers.

The analysis, published Jan. 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at data from the Million Women Study, which recruited a quarter of all British women ages 50 to 64 in the late 1990s through 2001. Though not a clinical trial in which participants are randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group — considered the most telling and bias-free approach — the size of this study makes it a key addition to the Women's Health Initiative. In that large U.S. trial, the study of estrogen-progestin HRT was halted in 2002 because of evidence that the treatment, while reducing colon cancer and hip fractures, promoted heart disease, stroke and blood clots — as well as breast cancer.

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