Newsflash: Estrogen only joins “avoid long-term hormone therapy use” recommendations

Posted by on Apr 2, 2012 in breast cancer, estrogen, HRT | 8 comments

How many times does one need to get hit over the head before they have that “ah-ha” moment?

That’s pretty much the party line when it comes to hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. I’ve been writing about HRT  since I started this blog. And I have been reading study after study that ultimately come to the same conclusion: long-term use of any hormones is unsafe.

I know that there are naysayers out there who don’t want to believe. Even the International Menopause Society continues to dispute the link between combined hormones and breast cancer.  Yet, I wholeheartedly believe in free will and choice, informed decision-making needs to lead the way when it comes to your health.

And so, in the latest wrench to be thrown into the HRT argument, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, reporting from the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting, that the longer that any hormone replacement is used, regardless of whether or not it is estrogen plus progesterone or estrogen alone, the higher the risk for developing breast cancer. 

Did you read that?

Lead researcher Wendy Y Chen is quoted in the Association’s newsrelease as saying that while it’s “already been confirmed that patients shouldn’t be undergoing estrogen plus progesteron hormone therapy for the long term,” (you can read about that here), “what we found is that people should also be careful about longer-term use of estrogen-alone [hormone therapy].”

Chen and her team evaluated data collected during the Nurses Health Study over a period of 28 years. They found that of the 121,700 women who took part in the study who were between the ages of 30 and 55 in 1976, and used combined hormones for 10 to 14.9 years, had an 88% higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who did not use HRT. Moreover, this risk increased to more than two-fold in women using it up to almost 20 years. And although the risk was comparatively lower for women who used estrogen only, they still had an 22% increased risk for up to 14.9 years and a 43% increased risk for up to 20 years compared to non-users.

Importantly, when the researchers restricted the population to the same that was observed in the Women’s Health Initiative study (i.e. healthy, active postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 with an intact uterus), they observed a decline in breast cancer risk among women who used estrogen only therapy for less than five years but continued to observe an increased risk among women currently using estrogen fo 15 to 20 years.

Chen emphasizes that the data do not demonstrate an increased risk for dying from, although they continue to study this particular factor for additional clues.

So, what’s the upshot?

Long-term use of any kind of hormone therapy, estrogen alone or in combination with progesterone, significantly increases the risk for developing breast cancer. Is this increased risk worth a decline in hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and vaginal dryness? Only you can decide.





  1. 4-2-2012

    GOOD observations and thank you. I need to mention that more people including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and midwives are recognizing that herbal help does work. This alternative method does NOT include estrogen, progesterone, petroleum or pharma chemicals. There are herbal tinctures and teas for hot flashes and night sweats, bamboo nightgowns that wick away perspiration and oil, lubricants and tinctures for vaginal dryness. I hope your readers will give themselves a break and try this way to regain their comfort.

    • 4-2-2012

      Thanks Helen. I am not sure how familiar you are with Flashfree but do take a look around in the archives. This blog is dedicated to evidence based ALTERNATIVES to hormone therapy. And I couldn’t agree more!

  2. 4-2-2012

    Not all estrogens are the same. In the older the data the more likely they were speaking of conjugated equine estrogens over estradiol.

    • 4-2-2012

      Ann, that is very true. However, the data set were as new as 2008 so in this case, we are including newer formulations.

  3. 4-3-2012

    New around here 🙂
    Just wondering what your take on natural progesterone cream is. I’ve been using this for a year and a half now and swear by it. I’ve managed to eliminate all the nasty physical symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and such.
    If it’s in the archive, please point the way as I’ve not yet come across this.
    Btw I’m a Canadian living in Scotland and always get a smile when I call them ‘hot flashes’ because here they’re referred to as ‘hot flushes’ 😉

    • 4-3-2012

      Welcome! I am a huge proponent of topic progesterone cream – try to get a standardized version – Emerita. And I’ve run across that term as well – flush, seems rather to refer to another part of the anatomy?! 😉

  4. 4-4-2012

    Liz I’ve had a look at the Emerita site but couldn’t find any such creams (found some other interesting/I’d like to try that stuff).

    The one I use is called Serenity by Wellsprings. I rub a small amount into a different part of my body for a few weeks a month.

    Does Emerita have such a product? Could you be so kind as to point it out, I didn’t feel the site was easy to locate this product even with being internet savvy 🙁

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