(Disclaimer: Back in June, I posted study findings that demonstrated a clear relationship between use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and death from lung cancer. Mysteriously, that post has disappeared from the archives. However, just last week, a more thorough analysis was published in online version of The Lancet. Because this issue is so important, I’m writing about it again. I hope that you find the information useful.)
The Women’s Health Initiative trial was a 15 year study examining the most common causes of death, disability and reduce quality of life in over 161,000 postmenopausal women. Researchers halted the HRT arm after definitive associations were seen between combined hormone therapy and increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. In the two to four years that followed, an excess risk for developing various cancers and for death were also seen. This is especially true for deaths from lung cancer.
- 16,608 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 received once-daily Prempro (conjugated equine estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone acetate) or placebo.
- Overall, women continued to take HRT for approximately 5 to 6 years, until researchers found that risks of taking HRT exceeded the benefits.
- Outcomes were measured via biannual phone calls and yearly clinic visits.
- After they stopped taking hormones, participants were followed for another 2 to 4 years.
The study findings showed that while HRT did not increase the incidence of lung cancer, it did increase the number of deaths from lung cancer, especially among women diagnosed with the non-small cell type. in fact, taking HRT yielded almost twice the risk of death compared to women who never took hormones. What’s more, increased risk remained regardless of smoking status.
Evidence continues to accumulate that the risks of using HRT greatly outweigh the benefits. These findings are just the latest piece of the story that is, in my opinion, the failure that is HRT. Indeed, even the researchers say that these data are strong enough that women considering taking HRT should be sure to discuss them with their physicians, especially if they are already at risk for lung cancer.