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Progestin Breast Cancer Link?

A new study finds women using the common hormone supplements estrogen and progestin to ease symptoms of menopause run a higher risk of breast cancer than those who get estrogen alone.

The study followed more than 46-thousand women in a national breast cancer screening program. CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports, while the risk of cancer is still low for women who take both hormones, the increased odds might further complicate the decision menopausal women must make about their health.

Results in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association show that for women taking only estrogen the risk of breast cancer increased by 1-percent. For women taking estrogen and progestin together the risk rose 8-percent for each year of use.

Doctor Anne Moore of Weill Cornell Hospital in New York explains. "It increases the risk very slightly, but it increases the risk over time so that the longer a woman takes hormone replacement therapy the risk increases."

Many women stay on hormone replacement therapy long after symptoms of menopause subside because of its benefits, including reduced risks of heart disease and osteoporosis.

The study has some wondering if such therapy is necessary. "Maybe we should re-evaluate this stance that every woman need to be on hormones her whole life to prevent problems later on," says breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan Love.

Pat Tortorici started taking hormones two years ago after suffering extreme menopause symptoms. "I felt totally out of control," she says. "I would bend over to tie my shoes and I would cry."

She plans to stay on the drugs despite the risks. "I'll take my chances," she says.

If there's one conclusion to be drawn from the study it is that hormone replacement therapy remains a risks versus benefits decision. A decision that every woman should make individually.
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