Estrogen Therapy and Cancer – Know the Risks
Estrogen is the most often prescribed form of hormone replacement therapy for women in the midst of menopause, but that does not necessarily mean it is the safest or best choice. Some females who have a predisposition for certain types of cancer may not be viable candidates for estrogen HRT. Others can receive estrogen as long as it is not prescribed with progestin. When you know the facts and the risks of estrogen replacement therapy and cancer, you can make a wise decision that will provide you with the best possible results in the safest way available.
Hormone replacement therapy can have implications in numerous types of cancer, and depending on the treatment prescribed as well as each woman’s own familial or personal risk factors, the chance of developing one of these conditions can go up or down accordingly. Many women do not need to fear the estrogen therapy and cancer connection, so long as their treatment is prescribed by an experienced doctor in the field of hormone replacement.
This report will highlight some of the specific cancer risks as they apply to estrogen therapy. Cancers such as skin and lung, along with others not listed in this article are not a factor regarding estrogen replacement therapy.
Estrogen Therapy and Breast Cancer
This may be surprising to many women, but estrogen therapy and breast cancer are not synonymous. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found that females who received estrogen therapy alone did not have an increase in the risk of breast cancer development. Additionally, those women without a family history of breast cancer as well as those with no previous incidence of benign breast disease themselves had a slightly lower overall risk of developing breast cancer if they received estrogen therapy for the treatment of menopause symptoms.
That is not the case for women who received progestin and estrogen therapy and breast cancer risk. With this form of HRT, women had a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Of greater concern is the fact that the breast cancers discovered were bigger and had often spread beyond the breast. Although the increased risk is still considered small (8 additional cases in every 10,000 women), the higher chance is enough to have many doctors looking at other forms of treatment.
In addition to the progestin and estrogen replacement therapy and breast cancer risk, this treatment has a tendency to increase breast density on a mammogram, making it more difficult to spot breast cancer in that imaging.
HRT specialists will often use bioidentical natural progesterone rather than progestin either on its own or in combination with estrogen to treat menopause without the risks of progestin. Testosterone therapy is another viable option for many females. Please see the report “Testosterone Therapy for Women” for further information.
Estrogen Therapy and Uterine or Endometrial Cancer
The risk for estrogen therapy and endometrial cancer is higher in women who still have a uterus, and that risk stays at a higher level even after treatment is halted. This is the reason why doctors often prescribe progestin with the estrogen for women with a uterus. However, this goes back to increasing the breast cancer risk previously mentioned. That is why HRT specialists substitute progesterone rather than progestin for improving benefits and safety.
Another concern about combined progestin and estrogen therapy and uterine cancer is that although this form of treatment does not increase this risk, it is linked to a higher chance of abnormal vaginal bleeding. This is often a warning sign of endometrial cancer, and can lead to additional testing. Once again, the use of progesterone rather than progestin is a safer alternative.
Estrogen Therapy and Cervical Cancer
There are currently ongoing studies regarding estrogen therapy and cervical cancer. Whereas there was once concern that estrogen HRT could contribute to a higher risk, there is now a belief that the use of estrogen could help in this area. A study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that estrogen receptors vanish in cervical cancer tumors. The receptor cells were found in the surrounding healthy cells. As more research is made public, Kingsberg Medical will provide that here on our website.
Estrogen Therapy and Ovarian Cancer
Although the WHI study did not find a correlation between estrogen therapy and ovarian cancer, other research looking at over 50 studies did find a slight increase in women over 50 who did take estrogen for menopause. The ovarian cancer risk did decline after stopping estrogen HRT.
The same findings were shown for women who received both progestin and estrogen therapy and ovarian cancer risk. In both of these types of treatment, the risk was one additional case of ovarian cancer out of 1,000 women over 50 who took hormone therapy for five years.
Reducing Your Cancer Risks from HRT
The best way to reduce your estrogen therapy and cancer risk is to know your family risk factor:
Next up is to be completely honest when providing all medical background information to your chosen doctor – preferably a hormone replacement specialist with advanced training in this field. You want an expert to be the one to test for hormonal deficiencies and prescribe treatment.
Hormone replacement therapy for menopause is important for many reasons, including:
- Strengthening the bones and protecting against osteoporosis
- Maintaining heart health
- Bolstering mood and reversing feelings of depression
- Promoting proper metabolic function and weight management
These are only some of the reasons why knowing your estrogen replacement therapy and cancer risk is crucial. The doctors and clinical advisors here at Kingsberg Medical can discuss your personal menopause situation and offer local testing for hormone deficiency and imbalance. We provide affordable treatment options that can safely reduce the symptoms of menopause. Call today for a free and confidential one on one consultation by phone with a hormone specialist.Brian Leeber