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Combination of Hormones in Women Post Menopause and the Possible Risk of Breast Cancer as a Result

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Review on January 12, 2010

Many women carry on using hormone based medication for menopause well into their post menopausal years and in many cases such medication has been shown to help fight osteoporosis and heart conditions which are often brought on by post menopause conditions in the body. However, prolonged use of menopause medication which introduces hormones into the body has been found to cause a host of other problems for women, post menopause. Recent research has highlighted the possible risk of breast cancer with many estrogen based treatments and estrogen testosterone combinations in particular have been highlighted recently as containing extra risk to women.

The study in question was conducted between 1978 and 2002 by the Nurse' Health Study and concerned 1,359323 women going through post menopause over 24 years. In order to establish the health implications associated with different types of estrogen and testosterone based hormone treatments, questionnaires concerning menopause status, breast cancer diagnosis and use of estrogen hormones were completed every two years by the patients.

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Findings were interesting as they highlighted that breast cancer was 2.5 times more likely to occur in women currently taking estrogen plus testosterone, rather than those who had never taken hormones as a treatment for menopause symptoms. Risk was also increased in those taking estrogen and testosterone when compared to those only taking estrogen, as it was for those also taking a combination of estrogen plus progesterone for the same reasons. Researchers also found that estrogen and testosterone medication was likely to raise the risk of breast cancer, post menopause by as much as 17.2% for every year that the patient took this medication.

As a result of this research the medical professionals involved have stated that although estrogen plus testosterone treatments may give much needed relief for menopause or post menopause symptoms, the possible cancer risks now associated with this treatment may mean it is not worth taking. Although menopause can affect sexual functioning, bone health and general well being, other more natural treatments may need to be researched more thoroughly in order to find an effective alternative treatment to engineered hormones.

Sources:
  • JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical Association. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1483-1489.