Breast-cancer risk following long-term oestrogen- and oestrogen-progestin-replacement therapy

Int J Cancer. 1999 May 5;81(3):339-44. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19990505)81:3<339::aid-ijc5>;2-6.


While use of hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) effectively alleviates menopausal symptoms and prevents osteoporosis and possibly cardiovascular disease, there is concern of a detrimental impact on breast-cancer risk. There is a particular lack of data regarding the effect of long-term use of oestrogen-progestin combinations on breast-cancer risk. We conducted a large epidemiological study in Sweden, where combined oestrogen-progestin treatment has been predominant, to examine the influence of different regimens of menopausal hormone therapy on breast-cancer risk. In this population-based case-control study, 3,345 women aged 50 to 74 years with invasive breast cancer (84% of all eligible) and 3,454 controls of similar age (82% of all selected) were included. Mailed questionnaires and telephone interviews were used to collect detailed information on use of hormone replacement and on potential confounding factors. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated through multiple logistic regression. There was a trend of increasing breast-cancer risk with duration of oestrogen/oestrogen-progestin use (OR for women treated at least 10 years, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.79-3.30, as compared to never-users), with statistically significant estimates only for women with BMI<27 kg/m2. Excess risks were observed to current use and use that ceased more than 10 years ago (OR for women treated at least 5 years, OR was 2.68, 95% CI, 2.09-3.42, and OR 2.57, 95% CI, 1.28-5.15, as compared with never-users, respectively). A positive association which was noted for use of oestrogen combined with testosterone-derived progestins appeared especially pronounced with continuously combined regimens. Long-term use of replacement oestrogens with or without progestins may substantially increase the incidence of post-menopausal breast cancer, particularly among non-obese women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Estrogens / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Progestins / adverse effects*
  • Risk


  • Estrogens
  • Progestins