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HRT, Drinking and Breast Cancer

Combination of Hormone Therapy and Drinking Doubles Risk

Women who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and who drink just one drink a day double their chances of developing breast cancer, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Wendy Chen of Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues studied the self-reported habits and health of more than 80,000 nurses in the United States, including 44,187 postmenopausal nurses.

The researched discovered that women past menopause who reported having an average of one and a half drinks a day had a 30 percent greater risk of breast cancer than those who drank little or no alcohol. Women who took HRT for five years and drank the same amount nearly doubled their risk.

"Our research suggests that post-menopausal women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by modifying their alcohol consumption, especially when they are making important decisions about hormone replacement therapy," Dr. Chen said in a statement. "While independently, both of these factors are known to impact cancer risk, the combination also needs to be considered."

"As many women are weighing the pros and cons of post-menopausal hormones, our study suggests that alcohol consumption is an important decision to consider. Fortunately, both alcohol intake and use of HRT are factors women can take into their own hands," Chen said.

After lung cancer, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. More than 190,000 women a year develop breast cancer in the United States.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 190,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, after lung cancer.

Source: The study "Use of Postmenopausal Hormones, Alcohol, and Risk for Invasive Breast Cancer." was published in the Nov. 19, 2000 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 137, pages 798-804).

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