Use of Hormones and Breast Cancer In African American Women

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

hrt postmenopause

Use of hormones is very common among postmenopausal women. Many turn to hormones therapy to combat osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and a host of other symptoms that come as a result of estrogen loss in women. Truly, use of hormones does have certain benefits but it also has many unwanted side effects as well. One of the most feared side effects associated with taking hormones is breast cancer. As most studies are based largely of white women, it was undetermined if use of hormones had the same negative effects on minority groups. To determine the relationship between use of hormones and African American women, this study has been conducted.

It is a fairly widely known fact that the risk of breast cancer is increased by long term use of female hormones. The risk is increased in the estrogen and progestin hormones combination, and much less in estrogen alone therapy.

hrt progestin

Studies including black women generalized that continuous use of combined estrogen and progestin increased the risk of breast cancer on the group as a whole (including many ethnic groups) however there is very little information on the effect of the use of hormones and breast cancer risk in black women specifically. Use of female hormones is much less frequent in black post menopausal women than white post menopausal women. This study assessed the relationship of post menopausal black women using hormones and their risk of breast cancer using nationwide data from the Black Women's Health Study (BWHS).

Another facet added to this study was body mass index (calculated as weight divided by height) in accordance to the relationship between of use of female hormones and the risk of breast cancer. Leaner women using hormones seem to be at a greater risk for breast cancer than overweight users. With most ethnic groups, body type and body mass index vary greatly; most often there is a greater prevalence of obesity and overweight among black women than white women. This study further looked into this report.


Women were mailed questionnaires including questions about the use of female hormones (duration of use, recency of use and type of hormones), menopausal status (age of menopause, natural or hysterectomy) and medical history. They were also examined for other risk factors of breast cancer including alcohol consumption, benign breast disease and oral contraceptive use. Information on these post menopausal women was updated in biennial follow-up questionnaires.

The results of this study show that the effect of use of hormones and breast cancer in African American women is similar to the risk experienced by white women. Use of estrogen with progestin, and use of estrogen alone increase the risk of breast cancer. This risk is even greater among leaner women.