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Estrogen Use Linked to More Mammograms, Biopsies

But estrogen-only use not linked to compromised cancer detection, except in early years of use

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Postmenopausal women taking estrogen alone are more likely to have otherwise avoidable mammograms with short-interval follow-up recommendations or breast biopsies, and their biopsies may be less commonly diagnosed as cancer; however, breast cancer detection among these women is not significantly compromised except, perhaps, in the early years of use, according to research published online May 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Rowan T. Chlebowski, M.D., of the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, and colleagues examined the influence of estrogen alone on breast cancer detection in 10,739 postmenopausal women with prior hysterectomy who were part of the Women's Health Initiative trial. The women had been randomly assigned to conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) or placebo.

After a mean follow-up of 7.1 years, the researchers found that the use of CEE alone, compared with placebo, led to an increase in mammograms with short-interval follow-up recommendations, but there was not an increase in abnormal mammograms. Women in the CEE group also had more frequent breast biopsies, but these biopsies were less commonly diagnosed as cancer. The researchers found that mammographic breast cancer detection in women on CEE was significantly compromised in the early years of use only.

"Although the breast biopsies on CEE were less commonly diagnosed as cancer, breast cancer detection was not substantially compromised. These findings differ from estrogen-plus-progestin use, for which significantly increased abnormal mammograms and a compromise in breast cancer detection are seen," the authors write.

Three authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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