HRT: New Risks

September 17, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Despite a link between breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), 57 million prescriptions for HRT are filled each year in the United States. Current belief is that low-dose formulas for short periods of time are safe, but as Ivanhoe reports, the latest research shows even short-term hormones may be risky.What a difference two years can make. Fifty-two-year-old Kriss DuBois is now "cured" of breast cancer, but while on chemotherapy she was slammed into menopause. "It was night sweats, which were probably the worst," DuBois told Ivanhoe. "Hot flashes all day long."

Those symptoms are now gone thanks to Estradiol low-dose hormone therapy. "I don't have the night sweats ever and as far as the hot flashes, I rarely will have one," she said.

Good results, but do they carry a risk? New findings from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center show HRT increases risk of lobular breast cancer by four-fold in as little as three years -- earlier than the five-year period cited by past research. Lobular breast cancer -- known as "sneaky breast cancer" -- is hard to detect, often diagnosed in advanced stages and is hormone-positive.

"We, as a profession, may have gotten women somewhat addicted to estrogen rather than letting them go through the natural process of withdrawal," John Link, M.D., a breast oncologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., told Ivanhoe. Dr. Link says women with serious symptoms should consider the lowest dose possible for the shortest time and then get off slowly. "If you kind of just shut the door, then it really exacerbates and makes the symptoms worse," he explained.

After two years on low-dose HRT, DuBois isn't ready to give it up, despite the latest warning. "It's worth it," she said. "I'm really not worried. I got cancer when I wasn't on it, so it's just not a question." Until her doctor says "times up," DuBois plans to enjoy every symptom-free day she can get.

This study is one of the largest to focus on the relationship between combined HRT and lobular breast cancer, which accounts for up to 15 percent of breast cancers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
MemorialCare Breast Center
Fountain Valley, CA
(714) 378-7955


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