Estrogen in Menopause Therapy Might Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer and Heart AttacksFeatured News, Health Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
A new medical study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that years after using estrogen-only therapy for their menopause, some women displayed a markedly reduced risk of breast cancer and heart attack.
The findings come to contradict the conventional beliefs that hormones used in such therapies are dangerous for the health, especially a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin, which are prescribed to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, and have been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
The study involved 10,739 women in the Women’s Health Initiative, who had previously had a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus. They took estrogen alone or a placebo for about six years and were followed for nearly 11 years, without the progestin prescribed only to protect the uterus from the harmful effects of estrogen.
The results showed that the women with hysterectomies who used estrogen alone had a 23 percent lower risk for breast cancer compared with those who had taken a placebo, while for every 10,000 women in their 50s, those using estrogen would experience 12 fewer heart attacks, 13 fewer deaths and 18 fewer adverse events like blood clots or stroke in a given year, compared with those taking a placebo. However, for every 10,000 women in their 70s, using estrogen would cause 16 extra heart attacks, 19 extra deaths and 48 serious adverse events.
“The decreased risk of breast cancer in this group is something we totally didn’t expect when we started the W.H.I. hormone therapy trials,” said Andrea Z. LaCroix, the study’s lead author and a professor of epidemiology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “This study differentiates estrogen alone from estrogen and progestin in a very big way. I hope it gets across to women, because we are not reversing ourselves.”
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