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Decline of HRT Use Linked to Drop in Breast Cancer Cases

Posted: April 19, 2007
When millions of U.S. women tossed out their prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy in 2002, the rates of breast cancer started dropping almost immediately, U.S. researchers reported Wednesday.

Their findings coincided with an early-release report from the U.K. that showed women who took hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause were 20 percent more likely to develop ovarian cancer or die from it than postmenopausal women who never took HRT.

The breast cancer report, published in the April 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the incidence of breast cancer both before and after the news broke from the long-term Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study that HRT might be more damaging than helpful to a woman's health. Between 2001 and 2004, it shows, the overall incidence of breast cancer went down by 8.6 percent in postmenopausal women.

The U.K. study, published online Wednesday by The Lancet, looked at the long-running Million Women Study and determined that 1,000 additional women died from ovarian cancer between 1991 and 2005 because they were using HRT, and that 1,300 extra cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in the same period.

The researchers, from the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit in Oxford, also found that after women stopped taking HRT, their risk of ovarian cancer returned to the same level as those who never used HRT.