Tender breasts and HRT – Do you need to worry?

Posted by on Oct 16, 2009 in breast cancer | 2 comments


Yes, you do, according to UCLA researchers, who examined data from more than 16,000 postmenopausal women participating in the halted Women’s Health Initiative estrogen plus progestin trial. If you recall, this trial abruptly ended in 2002 when researchers learned that women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had a significantly increased risk for developing breast cancer.

In this latest study, which appeared in the October 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers took a closer look at the data to identify which factors, if any, could predict the possible development of breast cancer in women taking hormones. At the study’s start and every year until it was stopped, participants underwent mammography and were asked to do breast self-examinations. In addition to providing information on factors that might increase their breast cancer risk, they were also asked to to rate the degree of breast tenderness at the beginning of the trial and after one year.

Study findings showed the following:

  • Women taking HRT who did not have any sort of breast tenderness at the study’s start had three times the risk of developing tender breasts at the one-year mark compared to women taking placebo.
  • Breast tenderness at one year was associated with a 48% higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer than peers who never developed breast tenderness.

The researchers say that they are unclear about the reasons for this relationship and wonder if it might be possibly due to the fact that HRT causes breast tissue cells to multiply rapidly, thereby leading to more tenderness and an increased cancer risk. They also caution that the results just apply to this particular form of combination hormone therapy (which goes by the trade name Premarin®).

So, should you worry?

Emerging evidence continues to point clearly to a skewed risk benefit profile when it comes to hormone therapy, with risks outweighing any subjective benefits such as a decline in hot flashes, improved sleep or less vaginal dryness. It’s up to you to decide if you want to continue using hormones is you presently take them, or if you want to start HRT in the first place. And of course, if you are using hormones and develop breast tenderness, you should contact your practitioner as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms.

Ultimately, we all have control over certain factors in our health lives and don’t have control over others. Choose wisely.


  1. 11-22-2011

    Im 39 and have tender breast for the last 3 weeks, I had a hysterectomy nearly 3 years ago and im on HRT premarin, after reading that index im quite worried now, should i be?

    • 11-28-2011

      I can’t provide you with medical advice but you may want to speak to your physician. I am running another post on HRT and tender breasts this week.


  1. HRT, breast tenderness and increased breast cancer risk | FlashFree : Not Your Mama's Menopause - [...] this news isn’t exactly new. Because back in 2009, UCLA researchers reported similar findings in the Archives of Internal…

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