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Author Topic: Fewer breast cancers linked to less hormone therapy
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A sharp decline in new breast cancer cases in 2003 in the United States have come because millions of older women ceased hormone replacement therapy the previous year.

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=healthNews&storyID=2006-12-15T150057Z_01_N14301649_RTRUKOC_0_US-BREAST-CANCER-HRT.xml

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Sara at home
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Ok, this doesn't work for me.

I don't understand how there can be an immediate drop in breast cancer becuase women stopped taking hormones. It isn't like the hormones are germs and cause the cancer. My understanding is that the hormones feed existing cancer. Long ago my doctor told me he believed that just as many women would get diagnosable breast cancer (if they lived long enough) with or without the hormones but that with the hormones the cancer grew faster and was diagnosable sooner.

In other words, a woman who had developed breast cancer at 55 who didn't take hormones might not be diagnosable for a decade but would be diagnosable at 58 with hormomes. So, if that 55 year old woman stopped taking hormones, did she prevent breast cancer or did she prevent the rapid growth of breast cancer?

Before I believe that this drop in diagnosed breast cancer is an indication that there are fewer cases of breast cancer, I want to see long term statistics that the rate of breast cancer remained low for the rest the subject's lives.

This is just too much too soon, in my opinion.

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Posts: 8317 | From: Reading, PA | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Four Kitties
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The way I understand it is that it's not only existing-but-thus-far-undiagnosed cancers that are fed/accelerated by HRT, but also pre-cancerous cells that might not otherwise develop into cancer at all. So while it may be true that some existing cancers may just develop later, as I understand it there are also some that may not develop at all sans HRT.

So yes, we'll have to wait to see how it plays out long-term. But I am of the opinion that less cancer is a good thing, be it temporary or not.

Four Kitties, whose maternal grandmother is a 22-year survivor

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Sara at home
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quote:
Originally posted by Four Kitties:
The way I understand it is that it's not only existing-but-thus-far-undiagnosed cancers that are fed/accelerated by HRT, but also pre-cancerous cells that might not otherwise develop into cancer at all. So while it may be true that some existing cancers may just develop later, as I understand it there are also some that may not develop at all sans HRT.

That's why I'm waiting for a long term study. It would seem to me that the preexisting cells no longer fed the estrogen and therefore wouldn't develop into cancer would be the true measure. I just don't think that can be determined in the 18 months after women threw away their hormone pills.

But I have to admit that I can't think of any other explanation. That's why I find it so puzzling. I heard an interview with a breast cancer specialist who claims that the researchers looked at the lower number of mammographies done in the period under discussion. Did they look carefully enough?

And they are talking about an immediate 12% decline in a population where only 30% were taking the hormones to begin with and only 50% stopped taking them. That just doesn't seem logical to me.

I think they're missing something.

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jimmy101
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"They" are definitely missing something, or at least overstating the strength of the conclusion.

First of all, it is a retrospective study which are always highly suspect. To prove a casual link they would need a prospective study.

Second of all, a 7% drop is not all that much. What is the year to year fluctuation in the incidence? What changes in the standard of care were made that might have resulted in this modest change? More mammographies in the year before resulted in earlier detection? Fewer mammographies in the year of the study resulting in fewer new cases?

Thirdly, will the reduced rate hold up over time? It is possible that there is a link between HRT and age of onset of breast cancer but not on the overall breast cancer rate. Will the breast cancer rates spike up in 2004, or 2005 or ...?

Fourthly, does HRT just make the cancer easier to detect? If that is the case then the interpretation of the data is exactly ass-backwards. HRT might actually help with the long term survival since cancerous masses are detected earlier.

The data that they have so far is more than enough to justify further study, but not nearly enough to prove the conclusion that is being presented in the press.

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Spam & Cookies-mmm
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"does HRT just make the cancer easier to detect? If that is the case then the interpretation of the data is exactly ass-backwards. HRT might actually help with the long term survival since cancerous masses are detected earlier."

There are cancers that feed on estrogen, and this has been known for several years, at least. A friend of mine was not allowed to use hormone therapy for menopause because she had had a form of breast cancer that thrived in an estrogen rich environment. The article in the OP refers to these cancers, stating "The steepest decline -- 12 percent -- occurred in women between ages 50-69 diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive (ER-positive) breast cancer," ... These types of tumors are fueled by the hormone estrogen."

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Sara at home
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Which brings me back to my original thinking -- Were the cancers still there, just not growing fast enough to be detected at that stage of the women's lives? Will we see that drop go back up over the next decade as those cancers, not fed by estrogen, slowly grow big enough to be detected.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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