Estrogen supplements may actually be linked to reduced breast cancer risk

USA Today reports, “For certain women, taking estrogen supplements for a few years close to menopause appears safe, and may reduce their risk of breast cancer, says a new study” published online in The Lancet Oncology.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “The report is a follow-up analysis of the landmark Women’s Health Initiative, a clinical trial of tens of thousands of women begun in 1993 that sought to clarify the risks and benefits of two hormone replacement therapy regimens in postmenopausal women: estrogen plus progestin, which most women must take, and estrogen alone, taken by women who have had hysterectomies.”

Investigators “followed 7,645 women from the original group of almost 11,000 participants for almost five years to see what happened to them after stopping estrogen therapy.”

Bloomberg News reports, “the researchers found that women taking estrogen were 23 percent less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those taking a placebo during an overall follow-up period of about 12 years.”

Participants “in the estrogen group who did develop breast cancer were 63 percent less likely to die from the disease than those in the placebo group.”

The AP reports, “The lower risk of breast cancer didn’t apply to women with a family history of the disease or those who previously had benign breast lumps.”

MedPage Today reports, however, that “age, body mass index, years since menopause, and gap between menopause and hormone therapy initiation didn’t significantly impact the effect. Detection bias from mammography differences was unlikely, the researchers noted.”

The Seattle Times reports, “An accompanying commentary in The Lancet Oncology noted the WHI results are modest but significant and raise important questions about why estrogen appears to have a much different effect on breast cancer than does the combination hormone therapy, which the WHI trial found increased breast-cancer risk.”

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