The AMA reports the
combination of Estrogen & progestin increases risk of breast cancer
January 5, 2000
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Women taking a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin
have a greater risk of breast cancer than women using estrogen alone, according to a study
reported by the American Medical Association.
During menopause, women are often prescribed estrogen to reduce well-known menopausal
symptoms such as hot flashes. Estrogen also seems to lower the incidence of heart disease
and brittle bones in menopausal women. But after estrogen use was connected to cancer of
the uterus, many physicians prescribed a combination of estrogen and progestin to reduce
the chance of uterine cancer.
Commenting on the study reported in AMA's journal, Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard
School of Public Health said: "In general, it's been found -- both in this study and
other studies -- that it's really (women who are) current or recent users of hormones who
have an increased risk of breast cancer." He added: "One of the good things is
that, after the hormones are stopped, within just a few years most of the excess risk
seems to disappear."
The study reported that menopausal women using the combination of estrogen and progestin
have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer than those who get estrogen alone. While
the risk of breast cancer is still low for women who take both hormones, the increased
odds might further complicate the decisions that menopausal women make about their health.
The study involved more than 46,000 post-menopausal women. When a woman discusses with her
physician the benefits and risks of hormone therapy, she should ask for advice on
assessing other factors, including her weight, heart condition and family history.
Researchers also urged that women talk thoroughly with their doctors about alternative
drugs and, to reduce the risks of heart disease and osteoporosis, about changes in diet