If you're a post-menopausal woman considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT), no doubt, this recent Journal of the American Medical Association study that links the use of a progestin-estrogen combo to increased incidents of breast cancer and a higher risk of death may confuse and alarm you even more.
Many of your older friends may have been scared away from HRT some eight years ago after a five-plus year estrogen-progestin trial -- part of the Women's Health Initiative -- when scientists determined the risks of combination hormone therapy superseded the benefits. Still, some 20 percent of American women, needing relief from hot flashes and the other menopause-related difficulties, use it anyway.
This latest report (that tracked the health of some 12,000 women for more than a decade) found patients on progestin and estrogen experienced a greater chance of encountering breast cancer and that it would likely spread to their lymph nodes. Taking HRT also doubled a woman's mortality risks, but that was an increase from 1.3 to 2.6 deaths per 10,000 women. Also, compared to the placebo group, almost twice as many patients on hormonal therapies experienced cancer that had travelled to their lymph nodes.
Although the risk cited in the study was a real one, the lead researcher told the Washington Post that it "barely met the threshold for being considered statistically significant." That's cold comfort for women in their middle years who yearn to feel vital and vibrant in their middle years, but have to worry about lingering questions surrounding the deadly possibilities of taking a drug intended to ease their burdens, and not add to them.
Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 304, No. 15, p. 1684-1692, October 20, 2010
JournalWATCH October 21, 2010
USA Today October 21, 2010
Washington Post October 20, 2010