This is the VOA Special
English Health Report.
Last year, researchers reported that breast cancer rates in the United States
dropped in 2003. That was after about twenty years of rising. Many experts
linked the drop to a sharp reduction in the use of hormone replacement therapy
for older women.
The researchers found that breast cancer rates dropped by almost seven
percent between 2002 and 2003. Now, they have just reported that the decreased
rates were also present in 2004.
Breast cancer rates were at their lowest level since about 1987, they say.
But they also say that in two thousand four there was little additional
The study found that the drop was mostly in women age 50 to 69. And it
was mostly in the kind of breast cancer fed by estrogen. Estrogen is one of the
hormones given to women in hormone replacement therapy, or HRT.
The use of HRT began to drop soon after a major study appeared in 2002. The
Women's Health Initiative study found that the therapy did not protect against
heart disease, as had been thought. Instead, it found that hormone replacement
increased the risk for some kinds of cancer, as well as heart attacks and other
The use of hormone replacement therapy dropped almost forty percent soon
after that report appeared.
The latest findings about breast cancer rates appeared last week in the New
England Journal of Medicine. The researchers used information gathered by the
National Cancer Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health.
Peter Radvin and Donald Berry of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer
Center led the research. Doctor Radvin notes that the kind of study they did
cannot prove that hormone replacement therapy causes breast cancer.
And both researchers say they are not suggesting that all women stop the
therapy. Doctor Radvin says he will continue to advise his patients to use the
lowest strength of hormones for the shortest time possible.
Critics of the study include Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, a maker of hormone
replacements. One question, it says, is why breast cancer rates leveled off in
2004 even though use of the therapy continued to drop. The company says the
reduction in breast cancer rates could have been the result of something
unrelated to the drugs.
And that’s the Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I’m