Among postmenopausal women, hormone therapy with estrogen alone does not appear to increase the risk of getting or dying from lung cancer. These results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
As women reach menopause and beyond, more than 80% will experience symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbance, and vaginal dryness. Estrogen, with or without progestin, is an effective treatment for many of these symptoms. Over the last several years, however, studies have raised important concerns about the health effects of menopausal hormone therapy.
Studies conducted as part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) have evaluated a range of health outcomes among postmenopausal women treated with either estrogen alone or estrogen plus progestin. Use of estrogen plus progestin was linked with an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, and blood clots and a decreased risk of fractures and colorectal cancer. Use of estrogen alone, which is generally reserved for women who have had a hysterectomy, was linked with an increased risk of strokes and a decreased risk of fractures.
Researchers have also evaluated lung cancer risk in these studies. A previous report from the WHI indicated that combined estrogen plus progestin did not increase the likelihood of getting lung cancer, but did increase the risk of dying of lung cancer.
The current report evaluated lung cancer risk among women treated with estrogen alone. Information was available for 10,730 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. All had had a hysterectomy. Women received either estrogen alone or a placebo.
Study participants have now been followed for an average of almost eight years.
The risk of getting or dying from lung cancer was similar among women treated with estrogen and women treated with a placebo.
These results suggest that unlike combined estrogen plus progestin, estrogen alone does not affect lung cancer incidence or mortality in postmenopausal women.
 Chlebowski RT, Schwartz AG, Wakelee H, et al. Estrogen plus progestin and lung cancer in postmenopausal women (Women’s Health Initiative trial): A post-hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial. The Lancet. 2009 Oct 10;374(9697):1243-51
 Chlebowski RT, Anderson GL, Manson JE et al. Lung cancer among postmenopausal women treated with estrogen alone in the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Early online publication August 13, 2010.