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HRT Study: Tenderness May Be Breast Cancer Warning Sign

Oct 13, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Issues surrounding hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are again making news. This time, reports Reuters, women who experience breast tenderness following HRT have a nearly two-fold risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer versus women on HRT, but without the tenderness, according to researchers.

"We report that an increase in breast tenderness, easily detected by physicians or patients, identifies a population at particular risk for breast cancer," said Dr. Carolyn Crandall of the University of California Los Angeles and colleagues, quoted Reuters, citing the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The team looked at data from over 16,000 women who took estrogen-plus-progestin as part of the widely publicized Women's Health Initiative, or WHI study, which was initiated in 1991 and stopped in 2002 after, said Reuters, researchers discovered that healthy women in menopause and on HRT were likelier to develop breast cancer. Since, an array of adverse effects has been associated with HRT.

According to Reuters, most of study participants were taking either Wyeth’s Premarin or Prempro.

The team looked at 8,506 women who took estrogen plus progestin and 8,102 who took a placebo, said Reuters, explaining that participants underwent mammograms and breast exams at the beginning of the trial and annually thereafter. As part of the study, the women reported on breast tenderness at the beginning of the trial and, again, the following year, according to Reuters. The team determined that women on HRT had a three-fold risk of experiencing breast tenderness, with those women experiencing a 48 percent increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer. "We need to figure out what makes certain women more susceptible to developing breast tenderness during hormone therapy," Crandall said in a statement, quoted Reuters.

The researchers said that the tenderness while on HRT "may be a marker of increased breast cancer risk," and urged women with breast tenderness after HRT to discuss the issue with their physicians, wrote Reuters. Over 400,000 women die from breast cancer worldwide every year, with most—75 percent—diagnosed as estrogen-receptor positive, said Reuters, which explained that that type of cancer is “fed by” the hormone estrogen.

Meanwhile, we recently wrote that WebMD reported that HRT has been linked to an increased risk of women dying from lung cancer and pointed out that women on combined HRT also exhibited increased risks for heart disease and stroke, breast cancer, and other adverse health events.

We have been following outcomes from the WHI and issues with HRT and recently wrote that while HRT has long been linked to female cancers and fatal blood clots, another study just concluded that women on HRT might be doubling their skin cancer risks. Yet another study revealed a connection with how HRT shrinks the brain. In addition to an increased risk of stroke and cerebrovascular disease in post-menopausal women on HRT, the WHI Memory Study also found that post-menopausal women on HRT suffered from a higher risk of dementia and memory problems.


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