therapy raises breast cancer deaths: study
Women who took hormone
replacement pills had more advanced breast cancers and were more likely
to die from them than women who took a dummy pill, raising new concerns
about the commonly prescribed drugs, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday. The
study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is
the first to report more breast cancer deaths among women taking hormone
replacement therapy. And
it contradicts prior studies that suggest women taking the drugs had less
aggressive, easier-to-treat breast cancers.
opposed to the prevailing thought of two years ago, that cancers associated
with estrogen plus progesterone would be favorable and not much of a problem,
we are actually showing they are associated with an increased risk of death
from breast cancer," Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical
Research Institute, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
findings include 11 years of follow-up from the Women's Health Initiative
study, which in 2002 found women who took estrogen plus progesterone for
five years had higher rates of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, strokes and
other health problems.
of U.S. market leader Wyeth's combined estrogen plus progesterone pill Prempro
have fallen by about 50 percent since 2001 to around $1 billion a year.
Wyeth is now owned by Pfizer.
AS MANY CANCER DEATHS
team analyzed data on the more than 12,000 women in the study. They found
twice as many taking HRT died from breast cancer -- 2.6 per 10,000 per year
versus 1.3 per 10,000 women per year -- compared to women who took a placebo.
24 percent of the breast cancer patients who took HRT had tumors that had
spread to the lymph notes, compared with 16 percent of women taking placebos.
the scary cancers with unfavorable prognoses were also increased,"
Chlebowski said, citing increases in aggressive forms of breast cancer,
and not just estrogen-fed cancers that are easier to treat.
then for the first time we show deaths from breast cancer are significantly
increased as well," he said.
said in a statement the company stands behind Prempro's current labeling,
which advises doctors to prescribe the drug at the lowest effective dose
for the shortest possible period of time. But even that may be risky, suggests
Dr. Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who
wrote a commentary in the same journal.
can only be guessing that taking the pills at a lower dose and for a shorter
time would be less harmful, Bach said in a telephone interview.
"should be aware that this approach has not been proven in rigorous
clinical trials," Bach wrote.
a science-based company, we take this analysis seriously," Pfizer said
in a statement.
is important to view the data in the full context of both the symptoms of
menopause as well as the extensive body of information -- developed over
more than 60 years -- on the known benefits and risks of hormone therapy."
note that the average age of the women in the Women's Health Initiative
study was 63, several years past menopause, and say the findings may not
apply to women taking other forms of HRT, or to those starting HRT immediately
at the time of menopause.