There’s now yet another reason not to use hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms any longer than necessary–if at all.
A new study published in this week’s Journal of the National Cancer Institutefound that women who use estrogen alone to decrease menopausal symptoms may be at increased risk of developing benign breast lumps.
The study analyzed data collected in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)–the large study that led us to realize that, overall, the risks of hormone therapy outweighed any benefits.
In this new analysis, the researchers looked specifically at the 10,739 women in the study who were given estrogen alone. (Women can only use estrogen alone if they have had a hysterectomy. Women who still have a uterus must use both estrogen and progestin.) They found that the women who had used estrogen were nearly twice as likely to develop breast lumps as were women who had been given a placebo. (In real numbers: There were 10,000 women in the study. A total of 232 women developed breast lumps that we call benign proliferative breast disease. Of Â these, 155 had received estrogen while 77 were in the placebo group.
We don’t know whether the women who developed these breast lumps were at higher risk of going on to get breast cancer. Â However, benign proliferative breast disease is thought to be the first step in a process that may one day lead to the development of breast cancer. It can also result in more unneeded biopsies, as doctors are going to want to examine these lumps to ensure they are not cancer.
The bottom-line: Post-menopausal women should only use estrogen for symptom relief. They should not stay on it any longer than necessary.