Menopause can be a very traumatic time for a woman and unfortunately post menopause offers little relief from hot flashes and breast tenderness for many women. These problems are, in many cases, helped by the use of hormone treatments which add foreign estrogens to the body. However, until now little research has been carried out into the side effects such estrogen based treatments carry. The risk of breast cancer with the use of estrogen and testosterone in postmenopausal women has been particularly neglected until now.
The study in question was conducted between 1978 and 2002 by the Nurse' Health Study and concerned 1,359323 women going through post menopause over 24 years. In order to establish the risks associated with different types of estrogen and testosterone based hormone treatments, questionnaires concerning menopause status, breast cancer diagnosis and use of estrogen hormones were completed every two years by the test subjects.
Results were interesting as they showed that breast cancer was 2.5 times more likely to occur in women currently taking estrogen plus testosterone, rather than those who had never taken hormones as a treatment for menopause symptoms. Risk was also increased in those taking estrogen and testosterone in comparison those only taking estrogen, as it was for those also taking a combination of estrogen plus progesterone for the same reasons. Researchers also found that estrogen and testosterone medication was likely to raise the risk of breast cancer, post menopause by as much as 17.2% for every year that the patient took this treatment.
Although the combination of estrogen and testosterone may be more effective in treating menopause symptoms, the increased risk of breast cancer is clearly a threat to a woman's health and possibly life. Researchers in this study have pointed out that many women, who are using estrogen plus testosterone as a treatment post menopause, have usually been on courses of other hormone treatments previously. This may affect their susceptibility to breast cancer through hormones but it is still clear that foreign estrogen treatments are not the best way to deal with post menopausal problems if long term health is a priority to the women in question. Instead other forms of estrogen which are not engineered by man will have to be more thoroughly researched or complete alternatives to estrogen will have to be developed in the treatment of menopausal symptoms.