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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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You may have seen or heard about the decrease in breast cancer incidence among postmenopausal women from 2002-2004. Often these kinds of statistics are used to promote how great we are doing in the 'WAR ON CANCER'. The inference being that the options of cut/poison/burn (surgery/chemotherapy/radiation) combined with mammograms has had a positive impact on this disease. As I've written about before, that's simply not the case in this instance.

According to a study published in the April 19, 2007 issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine", breast cancer incidence among women in the United States from 2001-2004 dropped 8.6%. This change is attributed to women no longer taking hormone replacement therapy-HRT. HRT usually entails the combined prescription of an estrogen with a progestin (not progesterone). Though promoted for just about everything from Alzheimer's prevention (disproved) to preventing heart disease (actually caused more heart disease), HRT is commonly given to any woman just before, during, or after menopause if she complains of mood changes, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc.

In 2002 I reported on the "Women's Health Initiative Study" which showed that HRT increased the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, and strokes. After the release of this study millions of women stopped taking these drugs. This is reflected in doctor's prescriptions for HRT declining by at least 38% in 2003 and by an additional 20% in 2004.

Researchers found that in 2003 and 2004, 30,000 fewer women developed breast cancer than would have been predicted by previous trends, and the incidence of breast cancer reached its lowest rate since 1987. In addition, it is estimated
that 16,000 fewer cases of breast cancer are being diagnosed each year because of the decline in HRT use.
Researchers found that the biggest decline in incidence -- 14.7% -- was in estrogen receptor positive tumors, in which estrogen promotes growth. The same estrogen present in HRT.

Evidence indicates that much of the breast cancer decline can be attributed to changes in HRT use, since the largest drop was experienced by women older than 50, the population that most often uses the therapy. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said, "We can't prove" that the decline in breast cancer incidence is because of a decline in HRT use, "but it is such a substantial reduction that you would need something big to have occurred to explain it. If it is not hormone replacement therapy, we still need to explain it" (Los Angeles Times, 4/19/07). Marcia Stefanick of Stanford University said, "These data add to the message that we really should be discouraging women from initiating menopausal hormones. We need to stop underplaying those risks. They are very real" (Washington Post, 4/19/07).

Even with this further exposure of the risks of HRT many will recommend its use for menopausal symptoms. However, homeopathy, nutrition, herbs, and lifestyle changes can effectively address the same symptoms, without the risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Why accept the risk of HRT before trying safe, traditional methods?


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