A sweeping new analysis adds to the evidence that many women who take hormone therapy during menopause are more likely to develop breast cancer — and remain at higher risk of cancer for more than a decade after they stop taking the drugs.
The study, published [August 29] in the Lancet, looked at data from dozens of studies, including long-term data on more than 100,000 women who developed breast cancer after menopause. Half of those women had used what’s known as menopausal hormone therapy, or MHT. The longer women took the medicine, the more likely they were to develop breast cancer. Experts say the findings could shape how women and their health care providers decide how to manage symptoms of menopause.
The new analysis doesn’t show that MHT directly causes breast cancer. But researchers suspect the association has to do with the hormonal changes of menopause. The level of hormones produced by the ovaries dramatically drops during menopause. Going into menopause early is thought to lower the risk of breast cancer. But using MHT might keep women in something like a pre-menopausal state, keeping them from getting the protective benefits of menopause on cancer risk.
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