According to an article recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the use of hormones with estrogen alone or estrogen plus progesterone is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer among black women, particularly among leaner women.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often prescribed for women during menopause. Menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s lifecycle during which the ovaries produce significantly less estrogen, ovulation ceases, and menstruation ends.
For many women, menopause has uncomfortable side effects. Hot flashes, sleep disturbances, depression, mood swings, and anxiety may affect the menopausal woman. Additionally, menopause may also be accompanied by increased urinary tract infections, incontinence, vaginal discomfort due to a lack of estrogen-based lubrication, and decreased bone density.
HRT has been effectively used to control these side effects and is widely prescribed for women experiencing these unpleasant symptoms of menopause. Recent results from several clinical studies have demonstrated a correlation between the use of hormone therapy and the development of breast cancer, as well as an increase in death caused by breast cancer.
HRT can contain estrogen alone, progesterone alone, or a combination of the two hormones. Research continues in order to answer questions regarding different outcomes with specific combinations or single-agent HRT and their duration of use.
The large clinical trials that evaluated HRT and breast cancer risk tended to involve only a minority of black women; this prompted researchers from Boston University and Howard University to evaluate data regarding the association between HRT and breast cancer among black women.
This study included data from the Black Women’s Health Study including over 32,000 women 40 years or older. Data included female hormone use, breast cancer risk factors, and the incidence of breast cancer from 1995 to 2003.
The use of HRT increased the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly among leaner women:
- Women who used HRT for 10 years or more with estrogen alone, or those who used HRT for 5 years or more with estrogen plus progesterone had significantly increased rates of breast cancer.
- The incidence of breast cancer was higher among leaner women who used HRT for 10 years or more than among women who had higher body mass indexes.
The researchers concluded that these results indicate that HRT use with estrogen alone or estrogen plus progesterone increases the risk of developing breast cancer among black women, particularly those who are lean.
Reference: Rosenberg L, Palmer J, Wise L, Adams-Campbell L. A Prospective Study of Female Hormone Use and Breast Cancer Among Black Women. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006;166:760-765.