Current status of hormone therapy and breast cancer

R J Norman, A H MacLennan
Human Reproduction Update 2005, 11 (6): 541-3
This editorial comments on two similar reviews of the literature on breast cancer and post-menopausal hormone therapies (HTs), puts the results in clinical perspective and suggests where they direct future research and clinical management. Although epidemiological studies have suggested increased breast cancer risk for all menopausal HT regimens, unopposed oral estrogen regimens have not been associated with any increased risk in recent randomized placebo controlled trials (RCTs). Added progestogen after 5 years of combined HT in RCTs increases the risk of breast cancer by four cases per 10,000 per annum. As yet there is no evidence of different risk by progestogen type, dose or route. Theoretically local intrauterine progestogen may not give the same risk, but long-term trials are required. The commentary addresses the responsibility of the media in presenting levels of risk to the public, moving towards safer regimens, safer therapies, appropriate patient choice and, in particular, correct timing of HT where it is prescribed around menopause. This is in contrast to many of the trials when HT was administered after the potential climacteric window of therapeutic opportunity. The current main indication for HT remains for menopausal symptom control where it improves quality of life. HT may be required for many years. The informed woman should decide on HT based on her personal benefits and risks, which should include all aspects of her health.

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