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A Definitive Link between Synthetic Hormones for Menopause and Breast Cancer

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Researchers from NIH’s Women’s Health Initiative released a study this December tying the use of synthetic prescription hormones to breast cancer. The Initiative had been testing synthetic estrogen in the form of Premarin and progestin (in a combination known as Prempro), but the test was stopped in 2002 when markedly more women using these hormones began developing heart problems and breast cancer.
Participants in the study were followed for over five years after the study was concluded, and new analysis shows that taking synthetic hormone replacement therapy for as little as five years actually doubles the risk of breast cancer. Even women who took Premarin and progestin for as little as two years had a greater chance of developing breast cancer. Their odds returned to normal after they had been off synthetic hormone replacement therapy for about two years.
The study’s leader, Dr. Chlebowski from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, indicated that breast cancer rates have gone down recently simply because millions of women have quit hormone therapy and fewer women who are now menopausal have started their use. Dr. Chlebowski indicated that women should use synthetic hormones only if menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes are severe, and then the hormones should be taken at the lowest dose and for the shortest time possible. She said the new analysis “sharpens that message.”
The famed Million Women Study 2003, a United Kingdom research project investigating reproductive and lifestyle factors affecting women’s health, found that women who use or have used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are more likely to develop breast cancer compared to women who have never used HRT. Why did that study—the largest to date linking the menopausal treatment to increased breast cancer risk—receive so little media attention in the U.S.? The study indicated women who suffer from hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms may also wish to consider alternative remedies, depending on their personal risk of breast cancer.
It is interesting that Sen. Grassley’s recent investigation into medical journal ghostwriting specifically targets Wyeth and articles about Prempro. Keep in mind that the FDA currently tells women and their doctors that they are only allowed to use synthetic hormones, which have now been proven beyond doubt to be unsafe (the EPA even considers synthetic estrogen to be carcinogenic!), but bans the use of hormones identical to those made by the human body. Not only that, but the FDA has specifically banned the one estrogen, estriol, that is most likely to be cancer protective!
The new analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative brings to mind once again one of the most important AAHF campaigns, protecting individualized medicine. Support individualized medicine and access to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy by supporting the work of AAHF.

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