Researchers find hormone replacement-lung cancer link

June 1, 2009 3:06:15 PM PDT
After past links to strokes, breast cancer, and blood clots, doctors may have found a new danger in hormone replacement therapy for menopause

A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology shows links between HRT and an increased risk of death from non-small cell lung cancer.

The findings are drawn from data collected in the landmark Women's Health Initiative study.

They show women who took the estrogen-progestin combo for the symptoms of menopause were 59 per cent more likely to die if they developed the lung cancer.

Median survival was 9.4 months in women receiving hormones arm, compared with 16.1 months among women who were taking a placebo, or dummy pill.

Dr. Chlebowski says that despite earlier problems with estrogen replacement -- increased risk of stroke, blood clots and breast cancer -- many postmenopausal women use the combined hormone therapy to fight the symptoms of menopause.

He said between 25 and 30 million prescriptions are written every year, and 15 percent of postmenopausal women still use the combination.

The Women's Health Initiative enrolled more than 16-thousand post-menopausal women, to study the impact of hormone replacement therapy.

The study was stopped early when it became obvious that a range of harms from the treatment outweighed the benefits, Dr. Chlebowski said.

As the researchers followed the participants, they noticed a significant increase in both fatal and nonfatal cancers among those who got the hormones.

There was no increase in mortality among women taking hormones who developed small cell lung cancer, however, there was for non-small cell lung cancer.

And smoking and taking the hormones led to an increase in the risk of death from the disease.

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