They lied! Hormone replacement doesn’t cause breast cancer! And I’m really angry about it.
Remember when you heard about the study that showed taking estrogen increased a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer? I remember as it was all over the news. And I thought to myself, well, I do acupuncture and herbs so I won’t need hormone replacement. And, to some extent, that was actually true. Acupuncture and herbs reduced all my symptoms such as poor sleep, anxiety, and hot flashes. But it can’t do much to help osteoporosis, heart disease, and other possible diseases resulting from menopause.
Let’s look at the facts. (Just the facts, mam)
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) initially published a study in 2002. That was the report that claimed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was dangerous and increased a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
If estrogen were the cause of breast cancer, then it would make sense that after menopause breast cancer rates would decline with the natural reduction of estrogen levels. That’s not what happens.
So the truth is estrogen does NOT cause breast cancer.
Here’s what really happened.
In July 2002, the WHI issued a press release stating it stopped a major clinical trial on the risks and benefits of HRT because of the increased risk of breast cancer. This information was then picked up by every major news outlet and spread like crazy. The announcement caused panic among the millions of women taking hormones and the prescription rate for HRT fell by 70% within a very short time.
The results of the study showed an increased rate of breast cancer among the women who were taking HRT. BUT, and this is a big BUT, the increase was statistically insignificant! That means the increase could have been a spurious association. That means that the results of a study are not considered statistically significant unless the probability that its results are due to chance alone is less than one in twenty. In 2006, the WHI updated their results with the same cohort of women and found no increase in breast cancer in those women taking a combination of estrogen and progestin. The alleged increased risk had completely vanished! Yet, the WHI continued their campaign of fear.
The WHI stated that all the women in their study were healthy subjects. Another lie! Of the participants, 35 percent were overweight, 34 percent were obese, nearly 36 percent were being treated for high blood pressure, and nearly half were either current or past cigarette smokers! The median age was 63, long past the onset of menopause. Therefore, there is no credible reason for generalizing the results of this study to the entire population of postmenopausal women. And that’s precisely what the WHI did.
In 2017, one of the principal investigators of the WHI study wrote: “The investigators most capable of correcting the critical misinterpretations of the data were actively excluded from the writing and dissemination activities.”
The stated goal of the study was to “shake up the medical establishment and change the thinking about hormones.”
The investigators collaborated in generating international panic based on data and conclusions that were open to serious questions. Why? They felt the hormone bandwagon was out of control. When presenting to a group of doctors, an investigator admitted that the statistical results were insignificant and that it would have cost too much money to redo the study.
All this info that I’m sharing with you is from the book “Estrogen Matters” by Avrum Bluming, MD, and Carol Tavris, PhD. The subheading is “Why taking hormones in menopause can improve women’s well-being and lengthen their lives without raising the risk of breast cancer.
The results of the study were statistically insignificant. The relative risk was 1.26. Now that doesn’t really mean anything to me, but looking at a chart of risk factors reported to be associated with breast cancer, there is that exact same risk factor by consuming alcohol. The risk factor increases with the following reported associations:
Physical abuse in adulthood
Night shift work
Being a Finnish flight attendant
Increased carb intake
Taking a calcium channel blocker for more than 10 years
Electric blanket use
And the statistical association that actually means something:
Tobacco smoking and lung cancer
The tobacco industry used doubt in the 1969 report on the connection between smoking and lung cancer. Today, reports linking HRT and breast cancer rely on fear rather than doubt to fortify their arguments.
In every woman over 40, more die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Many studies have shown estrogen has significant cardiovascular benefits. So, if you’re more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer and HRT will help with that, then why isn’t that making headlines!?
So there you have it. There is no study out there that has shown a connection between hormone replacement and increased risk of breast cancer. My future posts will follow up with the benefits of HRT. I’ll look at the quality of life, bone health, heart health, and more.
If you are interested in taking HRT, then speak with a hormone specialist. My gyno sited the old data when I asked her about it, so I found a specialist who is up to date on current studies and science. I encourage you to find someone who can help you in the way you need. Menopause doesn’t have to be miserable.