Estrogen use not associated with increased lung cancer risk

Postmenopausal women who use estrogen do not increase their risk for lung cancer mortality, according to a study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2010 Aug 13. [Epub ahead of print]).

In a post-hoc analysis, led by Rowan Chlebowski, MD, PhD, of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, researchers sought to determine whether the use of estrogen alone was associated with lung cancer incidence and increased lung cancer mortality. The study examined data from a previous randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) which included 10,739 postmenopausal women ages 50-79 years with a hysterectomy. Participants were randomly assigned to groups receiving estrogen alone or a placebo.

The study's findings revealed that the use of estrogen alone was not associated with lung cancer incidence or death from lung cancer in women with hysterectomies. Specifically, the researchers found that there was only one more death from lung cancer in the estrogen group (34 deaths) compared with the placebo group (33 deaths).

Researchers also reported that although the effects of combined estrogen and progestin and estrogen alone on coronary heart disease were similar, there were differences in the two therapies' effects on various types of cancer. Furthermore, combined therapy showed a statistically significant increase in breast cancer incidence, whereas estrogen alone showed a reduced incidence.

“These findings should be reassuring for women with previous hysterectomy, who use estrogen alone for climacteric symptom management,” the authors concluded.

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