Posted on June 3rd, 2009 by
Menopausal women with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who receive combined hormone replacement therapy with estrogen plus progestin are 61% more likely to die from the disease than their counterparts who received placebo, according to the results of a study presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando, Florida.
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Non–small cell lung cancer accounts for roughly 85% of all lung cancer.
Many women choose to undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in order to cope with the symptoms of menopause; however, research indicates that combined HRT regimens that include both estrogen and progestin may carry more risks than benefits, including an increased risk of stroke and breast cancer.
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that evaluated the health effects of combined HRT in 16,608 healthy postmenopausal women. In this recent study, researchers from UCLA performed a secondary analysis of the WHI to evaluate lung cancer incidence and mortality. The researchers compared the incidence and mortality of NSCLC during 5.6 years of intervention with either combined HRT or placebo and 2.4 years of additional follow-up.
The results indicated that while the incidence of NSCLC was similar between the two randomized groups, mortality from the disease was significantly higher in the group of women receiving combined HRT; 67 women in the HRT group died from NSCLC compared with 39 women in the placebo group, leading the researchers to concluded that combined HRT increases the risk of death from NSCLC by 61%.
Furthermore, women who smoke should be particularly concerned because they are already at an elevated risk of developing the disease. In this study the mortality rate among smokers in the combined HRT group was 3.4% compared with 2.3% among smokers in the placebo group.
The researchers concluded that using combined HRT for five or more years increases a woman’s risk of dying from NSCLC and smokers should be particularly careful about using combined HRT.
 Chlebowski RT, Schwartz A, Wakelee H, et al. Non-small cell lung cancer and estrogen plus progestin use in postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative randomized clinical trial. Presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, May 29-June 2, 2009, Orlando, FL. Abstract CRA1500.
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