A study by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit shows that women who take hormone replacement therapy may be at a higher risk for an aggressive form of breast cancer that is harder to detect than other breast cancers. Estrogen-progestin therapy, already shown in previous studies to be linked with a higher risk for breast cancer, stroke, heart attacks, blood clots, and ovarian cancer, now also has been linked with breast cancer tumors that are difficult to detect until they have reached a later, less-curable stage. The study is part of a run of bad news recently about the hormones routinely taken by millions of women after menopause. "Hopefully, it will convince women to reconsider [hormone replacement therapy]," said study coauthor Susan Hendrix. "We've got to find a better way to help women with their menopausal symptoms."
The study, reported in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined data from the government's Women's Health Initiative study, which was halted last summer after it was determined that hormone replacement therapy boosted some health risks. The researchers discovered that breast cancer had developed in 245 women who used hormone treatments and in 185 women given a placebo. Hormone users' tumors were larger at diagnosis in women taking the hormones and had begun to spread in 25.4% of hormone users, compared with 16% of placebo women. Overall, women taking estrogen-progestin therapy were at a 24% increased risk for breast cancer.