Even though a link between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer has been well documented in the epidemiological literature since the 1980s, it was not until publication of the results of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study in 2002 and the Million Women Study in 2003 that women and doctors started reconsidering the use of HRT and sales of HRT started to drop. This paper evaluates the impact of the publication of these two landmark studies on the expected and observed changes in the incidence of breast cancer. Between 2001-2002 and 2005-2006, sharp and significant reductions in the incidence of breast cancer of up to 22% were reported in many US and European populations, temporally consistent with the drop in usage of HRT. Declines in the rates of breast cancer were strongest for 50-60-year-old women (those most likely to be current users of HRT), affected mainly ER+ and PR+ cancers (those most strongly associated with HRT use), and were largest among women with the highest pre-decline prevalence of HRT use and the sharpest decline in its use. A considerable amount of scientific evidence supports the hypothesis that the decline in the incidence of breast cancer is in large part attributable to the sudden drop in HRT use following publication of the WHI and Million Women studies. Nevertheless, the problem of how to advise women contemplating HRT use today remains. Medical relief will remain necessary for many women with menopausal complaints, and so new therapeutic options need to be explored.
|Published - 20 okt 2009