This year, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to go back to basics.
When I was in my OB/GYN residency in the early 1990’s, we lamented that “only” about 15% of menopausal women were on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Study
In 2003, when the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Study published findings indicating an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking HRT, doctors all across America unceremoniously pulled women off of their hormones, leaving them to deal on their own with severe menopausal symptoms.
My realtor at the time was one of these women.
I lived in Manhattan Beach, California, and I had my house on the market. In walked my realtor with her face beet-red, dripping with sweat. She plopped down on my sofa and told me what I could plainly see – she had been yanked off of her hormone therapy due to the just-published findings of the WHI.
This was before you could easily search anything up on the internet. It actually took me a little while before I could actually read the study and analyze its findings.
Let me skip to what we now know:
In the WHI group of women being given Premarin® and Provera®, the increased tendency toward developing breast cancer was due to the Provera® (a.k.a. medroxyprogesterone acetate), a non-bioidentical progestin.
There were studies even before the WHI in primates showing that this progestin increases the risk of breast cancer.
The WHI study itself confirmed this a few years later. The arm of the study with women being given estrogen plus progestin was stopped in 2003 (due to the increase risk of breast cancer in this group), but the other arm of the study continued. In this other arm, the women had undergone hysterectomies, and were therefore given Premarin® (estrogen) only (without progestin) or placebo.
Lower risk of breast cancer
The women being given estrogen had a **lower** risk of breast cancer.
In fact, these women (being given estrogen) had a lower risk of death from all causes, including hip fracture, colon cancer and yes, breast cancer.
Here we are, almost two decades later. Very few doctors are aware of the data supporting the low risks and the huge benefits of estrogen for women in menopause. Most are not – they just remember the news when it came out, and have not learned the truth about hormone replenishment therapy for women.
This is the single most important takeaway from the two books I have written on the menopause!
This year, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I recommend the book: Estrogen Matters: Why Taking Hormones in Menopause Can Improve Women’s Well-Being and Lengthen Their Lives — Without Raising the Risk of Breast Cancer.
Click here to listen to a podcast interview with the authors.
As always, I welcome comments and questions.