Type of postmenopausal hormone use and risk of breast cancer: 12-year follow-up from the Nurses' Health Study

Cancer Causes Control. 1992 Sep;3(5):433-9. doi: 10.1007/BF00051356.


We prospectively examined the use of hormone replacement therapy in relation to breast cancer incidence in a cohort of women 30 to 55 years of age in 1976. During 12 years of follow-up (480,665 person-years) among postmenopausal women, 1,050 incident cases of breast cancer were documented. Overall, past users of replacement estrogen were not at increased risk. After adjustment for established risk factors, type of menopause, age at menopause, and current age, the rate ratio (RR) was 0.91, 95 percent confidence interval (CI) = 0.78-1.07. The risk of breast cancer was elevated significantly among current users (RR = 1.33, CI = 1.12-1.57); after adjusting for age, we observed no evidence of increasing risk with increasing duration of use among current users (P trend = 0.41), or among past users (P trend = 0.46). Women currently using unopposed estrogen (RR = 1.42, CI = 1.19-1.70), estrogen and progesterone (RR = 1.54, CI = 0.99-2.39), or progesterone alone (RR = 2.52, CI = 0.66-9.63), were all at increased risk of breast cancer compared with never users. These data suggest that long-term past use of estrogen replacement therapy is not related to risk, that current estrogen use increases risk of breast cancer to a modest degree, and that the addition of progesterone does not remove the increased risk observed with current use of unopposed estrogen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Estrogens / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Progestins / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Estrogens
  • Progestins