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Post-menopausal Hormones Boost Breast Cancer Risk

A new study by the Washington Post finds that women who take a popular hormone replacement drug after menopause not only increase their chances of getting breast cancer but also seem to face an increased risk of dying from the disease. The Washington Post article based its report on a landmark federal study.


The study of more than 12,000 women who were followed for about 11 years produced powerful evidence that deaths from breast cancer were more common among hormone-users.


For years, doctors recommended that women take hormones to alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause to protect their hearts and generally remain more youthful. But eight years ago, the federally funded Women's Health Initiative revealed that hormones' benefits were outweighed by risks, including heart disease and breast cancer.


The new analysis by the Women's Health Initiative, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women who took the combination of estrogen and progestin - sold as Prempro - were more likely to have tumors that appeared to be larger, were often hard to treat and were more likely to have spread to their lymph nodes. But most important, their risk of death appeared to be more elevated.

Peter Bach, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York proclaims, "I don't mean to be an alarmist, but when it comes to hormone replacement therapy, we've been wrong, wrong and wrong about this stuff. I just don't have the confidence to say that we know that any duration of therapy is safe."

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