If you know of or love someone who has had Breast Cancer, and let's face it the sad fact is that most of us do, read the article below and spread the word.
Hormone study finds dire cancer risks
Breast-cancer deaths more likely than previously believed
by Rob Stein - Oct. 20, 2010 12:00 AMWashington Post
WASHINGTON - Women who take estrogen and progestin after menopause not only increase their chances of getting breast cancer but also seem to face a small increased risk of dying of the disease, according to new results of a landmark federal study.
The study of more than 16,000 women who were followed for about 11 years produced the first powerful evidence that deaths from breast cancer were more common among hormone users, apparently because those who took the once-popular medication for more than five years were more likely to receive a diagnosis of more advanced tumors.
The hormone combination was long touted as essentially a pharmaceutical fountain of youth for menopausal women. But eight years ago, the federally funded Women's Health Initiative revealed that its benefits were outweighed by risks, such as heart disease and breast cancer, causing hormone use to plummet. Still, many experts thought hormones primarily increased the chances of developing smaller, less-threatening tumors and hormone users would not be at greater risk of dying of cancer.
The new analysis of the Women's Health Initiative, published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based on 11 years of data instead of the original 5.5 and found that women who took the hormones were just as likely as those who did not to develop more difficult-to-treat tumors and were more commonly found with tumors that had begun to spread.
"It had been said that the cancers would have a more favorable prognosis," said Rowan Chlebowski, of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, who led the analysis. "This is the first time we are able to talk about mortality, and there were significantly more deaths from breast cancer."
Coupled with research published last year that found women who took hormones were about 70 percent more likely to die of lung cancer, the findings underscore the risks posed by the therapy, Chlebowski said. Millions of women still take hormones.
"Women taking estrogen plus progestin are at greater risk from dying from the two leading causes of cancer death in women," Chlebowski said.
The findings surprised even some experts who have remained more supportive of hormone use.
"This really is a paradigm shift," said Hugh Taylor, chief of reproductive endocrinology at Yale University. "There was a whole group of people, including myself, who had been thinking hormone use was associated with an increased detection of breast cancer but not necessarily an increase risk of death from breast cancer. But this really nails it."
years, physicians recommended that women take hormones to alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, to protect their hearts and generally remain more youthful. But after the study's original findings, hormone use fell sharply.
In 2002, more than 110 million prescriptions for hormones were filled; by 2009, the number had dropped to about 40 million, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription-drug sales.
As a result, breast-cancer diagnoses started to drop. Several experts stressed, however, that the absolute risk of dying of breast cancer was low; in the new study, 25 women died of breast cancer among those taking the hormones compared with 12 among those who took a placebo. The increased risk translates into about 1.3 additional deaths from breast cancer each year for every 10,000 women taking the hormones, the study found.
Chlebowski acknowledged that the risk in the study was low and barely met the threshold for being considered statistically significant.
But he said he is confident the risk is real. Experts recommend that women who need hormones take the lowest dose for the shortest period of time.
Although some argue it is safe to use hormones for up to five years, others say that remains unclear.
Several experts stressed that the breast-cancer risk is not associated with estrogen use alone, which women who have had hysterectomies can take.