Magazine article Science News

Progestin Fails to Cut Breast Cancer Risk

Magazine article Science News

Progestin Fails to Cut Breast Cancer Risk

Article excerpt

Taking estrogen for 5 or more years may raise postmenopausal women's risk of developing breast cancer and of dying from the disease, a controversial new study shows. What's more, taking progestin does not reduce those odds, the researchers report.

Earlier studies produced conflicting results on whether estrogen, a hormone that helps lower postmenopausal women's likelihood of getting heart disease and other disorders, raises their chance of developing breast cancer (SN: 2/4/95, p.74). Taking progestin counteracts estrogen's effect of increasing women's susceptibility to uterine cancer, but few studies examined whether progestin also protects against breast cancer.

In the new study, women who had taken hormones for 5 or more years and who

were still taking them showed a 30 to 40 percent higher incidence of breast cancer than nonusers, report Graham A. Colditz of Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues in the June 15 New England Journal of Medicine.

A woman who continually takes hormones from age 55 onward would have approximately 3 chances in 100 of developing breast cancer between age 60 and

65, Colditz explains. Without the treatments, she would have less than 2 chances in 100.

However, stopping hormone treatment for 2 or more years brings a woman's likelihood of developing breast cancer down to that of nonusers, they report.

The study had several confusing findings, notably that risk drops quickly once women stop taking hormones, says William C. …

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