Hormone Replacement Therapy appears to pose a greater risk of breast cancer than previously thought. This conclusion comes from the Women’s Health initiative, a large, government-funded study that was stopped prematurely in July of 2002 because HRT was linked to a higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes as well as an increased risk for both ovarian and breast cancer. At first physicians believed that women who took estrogen plus progesterone developed less aggressive, easier-to-treat forms of breast cancer. But a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association contradicts that belief. Researchers have followed women for 11 years.
Those who took Prempro had more aggressive tumors and were twice as likely to die from breast cancer as those taking placebo. Although physicians are advised to prescribe the lowest dose of combined hormones for the shortest possible time, there are no studies to indicate what dose or duration would be safe.
[JAMA, Oct. 20, 2010]

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  1. ed
    Reply

    I have been taking Prempro for 15 years. I am now 67. My doctor said I will probably get breast cancer. Should I be scared or not?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WHAT YOUR DOCTOR TOLD YOU IS SCARY, BUT IT IS HARD TO ASSESS IF IT IS A REALISTIC EVALUATION OF YOUR SITUATION. MOST WOMEN WHO TAKE PREMPRO DON’T GET BREAST CANCER.

  2. cpmt
    Reply

    Amen to both comments. The same happened to me. I did refuse when in less than 6 months I got an small non-cancer tumor after I began to take them. My mother recommended NOT to take it and I did stop… I did not listen to my Dr. when he insisted to take hormones and I am glad I didn’t listen to him.
    I have three friends with breast cancer and all of them were taking hormones. Two of them did not listen when I told them not to take hormones. I always believed that hormone replacement AND -as well as… contraceptives are not good for our bodies.

  3. LR
    Reply

    Every time I read about the dangers of HRT I get angry. My GYN insisted I take estrogen and gave me all the usual arguments for it. I used an estrogen patch for a while but was allergic to the adhesive, so I stopped. She was quite put-out with me when I refused her written prescription for Premarin. At the time, I had a friend who had estrogen dependent breast cancer and I decided that if God wanted me to have estrogen at 50 yrs old, he would supply me with it. I’m so glad I listened to my ‘gut’ and not the doctors.

  4. sdw
    Reply

    My mother took HRT for 15 years because her doctor felt it was a good idea. She developed breast cancer where no other woman in the family ever had. She was cured but the operation was very hard on her and it was all very stressful for her which made her diabetes worse. I refused to take HRT because I felt it was the cause of her cancer and several doctors pooh/poohed my ideas and said things like she would have gotten it anyway, that the HRT didn’t make a difference. Now I have been vindicated by this study.

  5. CM
    Reply

    I take Premarin vaginally. Has this been studied? Is there an increased risk for breast cancer with this?

  6. Nancy
    Reply

    I think the WHI study has scared many women, including myself, and many of the information releases have been misleading. A significant fact is that the women in the study had not had a hysterectomy, second was that many of the women were beyond menopause.You had to be at least 50 to get into any of the WHI studies and many women were 70’s and 80’s.
    The hormone study was done only with Prempro which has estrogen and progesterone. I didn’t have a uterus and wasn’t eligible – thank heavens. I have been participating in the WHI low fat diet study since 1994.
    I listened to two GYN’s from Langone Medical Ctr talk on satellite radio this morning and they said a newer study has been done with 12,500 participants and they found that women who had a hysterectomy and took estrogen only were showing a 22% decrease in breast cancer. They were recommending that no one take Prempro for any reason.

  7. vrgnia
    Reply

    When I read studies such as the above they seem to be talking about all HRT, but I gather that they are really only testing with Prempro. Prempro is not a natural form of hormone replacement. It is a combination of Premarin (pregnant mare’s urine) and Provera (a progestin). I believe that the “bio-identical” estradiol and progesterone hormones I receive transdermally are much safer and give better results too, but probably not as much profits to the pharmaceutical companies.

  8. BH
    Reply

    With the advent of The Pill in the 60’s there are undoubtedly many women still living in the U.S. who, in good faith and under doctors’ care, have been on some formulation of estrogen/progesterone hormone therapy (birth control then later, menopausal symptoms) more or less continuously for 40-60 years. And now comes news that such “care” will result in higher incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and aggressive forms of breast and uterine cancer. Wonderful. Who should be named as defendants in the class action lawsuits–the FDA, the pharmaceutical companies, or both?

  9. anna m.
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with estrogen receptive breast cancer six years ago. Happily, it was caught early and after a lumpectomy and 20 days of radiation treatment, I was told no chemotherapy was needed. Having very, very fortunately experienced excellent health all my life, it came as quite a jolt. I have never liked nor taken much medication of any sort but had been on the pill for some 30 years and most importantly, from the age of 51 for nearly TEN YEARS had been taking HRT.
    It stopped the hot flushes, I felt fine, and my doctor in England, where I was then living, just kept signing the prescription forms without ever seeing me about the matter, and the years rolled on. Looking back I feel instinctively that the amount and duration of these hormones in my system were at the very least contributory to the cancer.

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