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Decline of HRT Use Linked to Drop in Breast Cancer Cases

Posted: April 19, 2007

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For the U.S. study, experts suspect that HRT may have been fueling some breast cancers because that decline began soon after many women stopped using HRT.

"From 1975 to 2000, breast cancer incidence increased rather dramatically. While part of that increase was clearly due to the introduction of screening mammography, once you take out that effect, there is still a rather astounding increase of 30 percent," said Donald Berry, chairman of the department of biostatistics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

"While there have been a number of theories put forward to explain the increase, it now looks like some of that increase is due to the use of HRT," Berry said. "When women stopped using HRT, it looked kind of like a market correction and the numbers went back down."

Initially, it appeared as if combination estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy was the answer to many ills. Researchers hoped that HRT would lower the risk of such serious illnesses as heart disease and dementia.

However, the WHI study, which included more than 16,000 postmenopausal women, was stopped early in May 2002 because HRT was increasing the risk of coronary disease, stroke and blood clots.