- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

Long-term use of female hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal black women who are 40 or older, especially thinner women, a large study has found.

“We found a 41 percent increase in breast cancer among black women who used estrogen alone for 10 years and a 45 percent increase among those who took estrogen plus progestin for five years,” said Lynn Rosenberg of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, the study’s lead author.

The findings by researchers at Boston and Howard universities were published in yesterday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

“Mortality from breast cancer is disproportionately higher for black women than white women. So I’m against taking estrogen or estrogen plus progestin period,” Lucile Adams-Campbell, director of the Howard University Cancer Center.

In 2002, a major study of primarily white postmenopausal women was stopped when it was determined that those taking estrogen plus progestin had a 24 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. The women in that study had not had hysterectomies.

The new study, which used data collected from biennial questionnaires from 1995 through 2003 in the Black Women’s Health Study, said women on the hormones for at least two years were more likely to get breast cancer.

The Boston-Howard research also found that lean women, or those with a body-mass index of less than 25, who took hormones were at a greater risk for breast cancer than heavier ones. The incidence rate was three times more among lean postmenopausal women who took hormones for 10 or more years, the study found.

The link between hormone therapy and breast cancer may be greater in lean women because fat tissue produces estrogen. So the hormones added by taking pills may not have as much of an effect on estrogen levels in heavier women, Ms. Rosenberg said.

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