Menopausal hormone treatment is not intended to increase the risk of breast cancer
For menopause symptoms, hormone treatment for women is considered an important treatment option in conventional medicine. However, hormone therapy is controversial because, for example, according to some studies, it increases the risk of breast cancer. Danish doctors and researchers now claim that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy does not significantly increase the risk of cancer. Nor would there be any more strokes or pulmonary embolism. Instead, hormone therapy is said to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Experts criticize the study as "weak".
Lower risk of heart disease
According to a Danish study, hormone treatment for menopausal women does not increase the risk of cancer. Initially, the researchers only looked at cardiovascular risk. Here, too, the researchers could not identify more stroke or pulmonary embolism than menopausal women without hormone replacement therapy, according to the study report on the website "Medical Questions" (BMJ.COM). According to this, treated women would even have a lower risk of developing heart disease.
In the long-term studies, the doctors observed female volunteers from various Danish clinics for 16 years. A total of 504 patients were selected who started hormone treatment shortly after the menopause. For the evaluation, the doctors compare the data with 504 other women who did not undergo drug hormone therapy. At the end of the study in 2008, 27 women died of hormone replacement therapy in the group of women. Eight of the deceased had a heart attack. A total of 40 women died in the group of untreated people. 19 of them have heart failure or heart attack.
Significant weaknesses of the study
However, the data collection shows some weaknesses, as the researchers themselves admit. Other factors such as weight, previous medical history, state of health, diet, exercise or smoking were not taken into account. The "present study was not carried out with a placebo preparation", which is why the informative value is limited. Nevertheless, the present work is "the first randomized study in healthy women who were treated early on in postmenopause with 17-β-estradiol and norethisterone acetate and the only one that ran over a period of 10 years". Therefore, the data would suggest that "prompt initiation of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women lowers mortality from heart attacks and heart failure". It is therefore important for the result that "early administration and longer treatment times do not lead to an increased risk of breast cancer or stroke", the study authors said.
Danish study can be described as "weak"
The studies are criticized by the French scientist Françoise Clavel-Chapelon. She and her team have been researching the topic since 1990 and have already analyzed the data from around 100,000 women. With their study in 2007, the scientists came to the conclusion that "hormone treatments during the menopause increase the risk of breast cancer by a double". Because the research involves far more data and also uses other methods, the study “can be described as weak by the Danish doctors,” says Clavel-Chapelon.
As early as 2002 and 2003, further large-scale evaluations in the USA had shown that hormone treatments increased the risk of breast cancer many times over. However, these studies were also questioned by other researchers because the results were not clearly comparable, for example because there were large differences in the average age of women when they started taking hormones. There were also differences in the start of hormone treatment and the doses administered.
Hormone replacement therapy is big business for pharmaceutical manufacturers. The only indicators that speak for medical intervention are so-called postmenopausal complaints such as hot flashes, depressive moods or an insufficient supply of the vaginal mucosa. According to the German Cancer Research Center, these same complaints can also be alleviated through healthy eating, yoga and sufficient exercise. According to the experts, almost 30 percent of breast cancer cases in Germany can be avoided if hormones are not administered. (sb)
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