Hormone therapy and breast cancer risk

Climacteric. 2007 Oct;10 Suppl 2:54-61. doi: 10.1080/13697130701598324.


Hormone therapy (HT) is the most efficacious intervention for the relief of climacteric symptoms. Controversies surrounding HT have left many women puzzled and afraid. Gynecologists are faced with long-standing beneficial assumptions challenged by an abundance of robust detrimental new data, with little guidance on how to interpret these findings. Prescriptions for HT (and incidence of breast cancers in some areas) have fallen over the last 3 years due to anxiety provoked about breast cancer risk and recurrence. The current 'clinical climate' is against HT. Due to a lack of effective alternatives, women suffering from estrogen-deficiency symptoms are still requesting objective information about HT, particularly those at higher risk of breast cancer or those with a past history of breast cancer. In this situation, discussion of the current clinical uncertainty surrounding the use of HT must be undertaken to ensure that women are adequately informed. The objective of this presentation is to provide a framework for understanding breast cancer risk associated with HT. What are the precise molecular mechanisms of estrogen and progestin in the initiation of breast cancer? Does the risk of estrogen-only therapy on breast cancer vary by dose, constituent, route and duration of administration and cessation of use? Does HT, in addition to increasing risk for breast cancer, affect the type of breast cancer (lobular and ductal) diagnosed? Is HT associated with breast cancers that have better prognostic factors? How relevant are the changes in mammographic breast density associated with HT for the evaluation of breast cancer risk? What is the additional global health risk/benefit ratio associated with the selective use of progesterone or progestin that may confer a significant cardiovascular benefit, such as drospirenone? It is currently assumed and tested that new hormones with particular pharmacological profiles may ultimately achieve their therapeutic goal of relieving climacteric symptoms without an associated moderate increased risk of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / chemically induced*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / prevention & control
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / chemically induced*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / prevention & control
  • Climacteric / drug effects
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage
  • Estrogens / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hot Flashes / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Progestins / administration & dosage
  • Progestins / adverse effects
  • Women's Health


  • Estrogens
  • Progestins