Reducing HRT May Have Dropped Rates of Most Common Breast Cancer

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • That has to be the reaction of all women, whether we’ve had breast cancer or not, upon reading the stunning story in today’s New York Times, which broke the news to those of us outside the scientific community that rates for the most common form of breast cancer dropped precipitously between August 2002 and December 2003: a drop of 15 percent in just 16 months. Reportedly, this is the biggest decline in any specific type of cancer in any one year–ever. No wonder jaws are dropping all over America this morning.

    What’s going on, all of a sudden? We’re all exercising more, eating better, doing our monthly self-exams more faithfully?

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    As Dr. Peter Ravdin, one of the authors of the study who was quoted in the Times, said,“Epidemiology can never prove causality” (translation: you can’t prove the cause of something simply by looking at the results), but it appears that there IS one very compelling bit of information that explains the data “perfectly”: the fact that so many women stopped hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs rather suddenly, exactly during that time.

    Remember the Women’s Health Initiative study, released in July 2002, that seemed to indicate that HRT increased breast cancer risk? And how so many of our girlfriends moaned and groaned and grudgingly gave up their Prempro and put up with the hot flashes and mood swings and sleeplessness, just for the chance to maybe reduce their risk of breast cancer? Looks like that was a good move.

    About 14,000 women that, statistically speaking, should have gotten breast cancer during those 16 months, didn’t. That’s 14,000 of our sisters who avoided the shock of that awful D (diagnosis) Day, who didn’t have to look into their husband’s eyes and say “I might be dying.” Who never hugged their kids and wondered if they’d be around to see them dress up for their first school dance. Wyeth, the drug company whose Prempro helped so many of us for so many years, took a huge financial hit when sales of their drug suddenly plummeted. But look at the result: women’s lives saved. Fourteen thousand of them–the population of a typical American small town.

    There’s much more research to be done, of course. As Dr. Ravdin indicated, cause-and-effect, when applied to scientific research, is never fast and easy. But I’m sure scientists all over the world are looking at these statistics and slowly nodding their heads, saying, “Yeah, it sure looks like HRT was causing breast cancer. These statistics are incredibly compelling.”

    Isn’t it great, in the fast-moving though foggy advances that so often seem to define cancer treatment, there’s finally something we can point a finger at, and say “Yeah! There IS something simple I can do to cut my risk of breast cancer.” And it’s simply this: don’t do HRT. Talk to your doctor about other ways to minimize those night sweats; try exercise to help with the mood swings. But do what millions of other women have done over the past 3 years: choose not to take HRT drugs. Choose to live.

Published On: December 15, 2006