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||Invited commentary: Postmenopausal unopposed estrogen and breast cancer risk in the Women's Health Initiative--before and beyond.
||Am J Epidemiol
||2008 Jun 15
||Three large clinical trials provoked major debate when hormone replacement therapy (HRT) did not reduce coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women as expected from observational epidemiologic studies. Less discussion has ensued about breast cancer or other adverse events. In this issue of the Journal, investigators from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) compare breast cancer findings from the randomized trial of unopposed estrogen with those from the large WHI observational study. This commentary briefly summarizes historical highlights of menopausal hormone use; risk-versus-benefit evaluations; scientific, clinical, and policy influences immediately before and during the WHI trial; breast cancer incidence trends; and the post-trial response in US clinical practice. Factors complicating interpretation of the results include differences in breast cancer risk profiles between women in the trial and those in the observational study cohort as well as heterogeneity in the definitions of menopause and prior use of HRT as applied by the WHI investigators to the two populations. Because millions of women use HRT, it is important to consider how the WHI and other research investigations might contribute to reducing gaps in understanding the relation between HRT and breast cancer risk.