Friday, December 15, 2006
Less HRT may be the key to less breast cancer
It is nice to blog about some good news every once in a while. A new study shows that breast cancer rates plunged 7 percent overall and in some cases as much as 14 percent in 2003. That is especially good news considering there had been a steady increase in breast cancer from 1975 to 2000, with almost a 30 percent increase over that time. (Full Story)
Most interesting perhaps, is that many researchers believe they know exactly why the rate is going down.
They point to the swirling negative problems surrounding hormone replacement therapy or HRT. In July 2002, the Women's Health Initiative warned that HRT could actually lead to an increase in breast cancer and heart disease. It seems patients and their doctors started to pay attention. By the end of 2003, the number of prescriptions written for HRT went from around 22 million to 12 million. Shortly thereafter, we started to see the first declines in breast cancer. At first, it was just small changes but now for women with estrogen-fueled tumors, the most common breast cancer rates have dropped up to 14 percent. For all age groups, the rate dropped 7 percent.
Not surprisingly, representatives from the American Cancer Society are being cautious. After all, it is just one year's worth of data and that hardly makes a trend. Still, that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of breast cancer researchers who have been working their entire lives for a win.
What is most difficult, though, are the conversations I have had with many women around the country about HRT. So many of these women are simply debilitated and unable to function because of the frustrating symptoms of menopause. They will read today's news and still refuse to give up their HRT, even though they know it could dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer. To them, the risk is worth it. So, what should doctors tell these women and is there anything else out there that works?
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