Estrogen, estrogen plus progestin therapy, and risk of breast cancer.
Epidemiologic evidence relating use of postmenopausal hormones to risk of breast cancer by nature relies on trends in prescribing practices. Data on the adverse effect of combination estrogen plus progestin used for long durations has only become available over the past decade. Evidence is reviewed relating estrogen alone and estrogen plus progestin to increased risk of breast cancer. Whereas current evidence indicates that longer duration of use increases risk of invasive breast cancer regardless of formulation, the rate of increase in risk is greater for combination estrogen plus progestin therapy. Although data are limited, continuous combined therapy and sequential therapy seem to have comparable impact on breast cancer risk. Combination therapy is more strongly related to lobular breast cancer than is estrogen alone. Unresolved issues remain about dose of estrogen and progestin in relation to risk, and about identification of women for whom short-term use to relieve menopausal symptoms may be safe and effective.
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