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Breast Tenderness Linked To Elevated Cancer Risk

According to researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA they are not certain why breast tenderness indicates increased cancer risk among women on the combination therapy.

The researchers based their findings by examining data on more than 16,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative estrogen-plus- progestin clinical trial.   They speculated that it may be because the hormone therapy is causing breast-tissue cells to multiply more rapidly, which causes breast tenderness and at the same time indicates increased cancer risk.

The UCLA research, published in the Oct. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, compared the daily use of oral conjugated equine estrogens (0.625 mg) plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (2.5 mg), or CEE+MPA, with the daily use of a placebo pill. 

Of the participants in the trial, over 8,500 took estrogen plus progestin and just over 8,100 were given placebos. Participants underwent mammography and clinical breast exams at the start of the trial and annually thereafter. Self-reported breast tenderness was assessed at the beginning of the trial and one year later, and invasive breast cancer over the next 5.6 years was confirmed by medical record review. 

Women on the combination therapy who did not have breast tenderness at the trial’s inception were found to have a threefold greater risk of developing tenderness at the one-year mark, compared with participants who were assigned placebos (36.1 percent vs. 11.8 percent). Among the women who did report breast tenderness at the beginning, the risk at one-year was about 1.26 times that of their counterparts on placebos. 

Of the women who reported new-onset breast tenderness, 76.3 percent had been on the combination therapy.

Women in the combination therapy group who did not have breast tenderness at the outset but experienced new-onset tenderness at the first annual follow-up had a 48 percent higher risk of invasive breast cancer than their counterparts on combination therapy who did not have breast tenderness at the first-year follow-up.

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