• Cancer

    Women’s Wellness: Does menopausal hormone therapy increase risk of breast cancer?

Women who take hormone therapy during menopause are reportedly at greater risk of developing breast cancer. That's according to a study published this week in The Lancet.

Dr. Stephanie Faubion examining patient
Dr. Stephanie Faubion examining a patient.

Dr. Stephanie Faubion, the Bill and Penny George Director of the Center for Women's Health at Mayo Clinic says, "Most of the findings in this report are not new, and these results are associations."

Dr. Faubion, who was not involved in the study, says, "Therefore, cause-and-effect conclusions are not possible. In addition, the absolute risks are low and could be the result of bias rather than of any true effect of exposure." She adds, this report does not speak to risk of breast cancer associated with current hormone therapy prescribing practices.

Dr. Faubion stresses that the management of menopause symptoms should be individualized, taking into account the severity of symptoms and a woman’s risk factors as well as treatment goals and her personal preferences.

"For instance, obesity is an important risk factor for not only breast cancer but also for cardiovascular disease, and clinicians should counsel these women regarding lifestyle modification strategies," says Dr. Faubion. "The timing of menopause is also an important consideration, with women undergoing premature/early menopause at increased risk for multiple potential adverse long-term health consequences if hormone therapy is avoided."

Dr. Faubion is also medical director of The North American Menopause Society. Click here to read her comprehensive response to The Lancet study.

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