Estrogen may be safe for breast cancer survivors-study

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Reuter / Andrea Orr

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Mar 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM3/24/97
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<I><A HREF='http://www.clari.net/'>ClariNet</A> <CLARI-ITEM TYPE>story</CLARI-ITEM> <B><CLARI-ITEM SLUGWORD>HEALTH-ESTROGEN</CLARI-ITEM></B> from <CLARI-ITEM FROM>Reuter / Andrea Orr</CLARI-ITEM></I><BR>
<H1><CLARI-ITEM HEADLINE>Estrogen may be safe for breast cancer survivors-study</CLARI-ITEM></H1>
<I><B><CLARI-ITEM COPYRIGHT>Copyright 1997 by Reuters</CLARI-ITEM></B></I> / <I><CLARI-ITEM DATE>Mon, 24 Mar 1997 20:31:16 PST</CLARI-ITEM></I><P>
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<P> LOS ANGELES (Reuter) - A new study released Tuesday
challenges the conventional wisdom that hormone replacement
therapy can trigger a recurrence of breast cancer in survivors,
and says the benefits of the therapy for some patients may
outweigh the risks.</P>
<P> ``We found that in 145 patients who had survived breast
cancer, there was no increase in the incidence of the cancer
recurring,'' Dr. Wendy Brewster, a fellow at the University of
California, Irvine, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Brewster was to present the results at the annual meeting of the
Society of Gynecologic Oncologists in Phoenix.</P>
<P> While she acknowleged that the research was preliminary and
would need to be followed up with more comprehensive trials,
Brewster said the findings were significant because they
departed from prevailing medical practice.</P>
<P> While doctors still debate the benefits of estrogen
replacement in any post-menopausal woman, they routinely deny it
to women who have had breast cancer because of studies linking
prolonged estrogen treatment to an increased risk of breast
cancer.</P>
<P> Brewster's study identified 145 women who had survived
breast cancer, and treated them with estrogen for a median time
of 30 months. Of the test group, 129 are still alive and show no
sign of the cancer coming back, 13 had a recurrence of breast
cancer, two died of advanced ovarian cancer and one of
endometrial cancer. Brewster said the rate of recurrence was
roughly comparable to that of patients who did not take
estrogen.</P>
<P> Although the duration of the estrogen treatment for some
women in the study was less than three years, Brewster said that
was sufficient since the trial was looking for the recurrence of
cancer rather than the onset of new cases.</P>
<P> She said the study results, coupled with the fact that most
breast cancer victims ultimately die of some non-cancerous
cause, offered reason to reconsider the benefits of estrogen in
that patient group. Estrogen supplements are widely believed to
protect women from a range of diseases including osteoporosis,
heart disease, colorectal cancer and even reduced cognitive
abilities.</P>
<P> ``Given the fact that most women with breast cancer will die
of some other cause, how can we deny them the opportunity to
protect their health and quality of life?'' said Brewster. She
said she was not recommending that all breast cancer survivors
go on estrogen, but that doctors consider it on a
patient-by-patient basis rather than categorically ruling it
out.</P>
<P> An added reason to reconsider current practice, she said, is
that breast cancer survivors could be the ones most in need of
protection from heart disease, loss of bone mass and other
post-menopausal illnesses. That is because chemotherapy
treatment often brings on early menopause, which leads to a
sharp drop in the body's natural estrogen levels. Brewster said
about half of all women who receive chemotherapy in their 20's
or 30's, and 80 percent of those in their 40's go into early
menopause as a result of the treatment.</P>
<P> ``These women spend a greater portion of their lives without
estrogen, and are at a greater risk for the associated
diseases,'' said Brewster.</P>
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