Last week, we learned of a link between breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy:
"In a startling turnaround, breast cancer rates in the United States dropped dramatically in 2003, and experts said they believe it is because many women stopped taking hormone pills. The 7.2 percent decline came a year after a big federal study linked hormone replacement therapy used at menopause to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other problems. Within months, millions of women stopped taking estrogen and progestin pills. A new analysis of federal cancer statistics, presented Thursday at a scientific conference called the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, revealed the drop in tumors."
"The researchers stressed that because their analysis is based on population statistics, the reasons for the drop are not completely certain. But evidence showed that the steepest decline in breast cancer diagnosis, at 12 percent, occurred in women between the ages 50 to 69 with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. These types of tumors are fueled by the hormone estrogen."
"A big study in 2002 suggested that the combination of estrogen and progestin raised the risk of breast cancer and brought a premature halt to a Women’s Health Initiative study of more than 16,600 women between 50 and 79 who were taking hormones. The news caused widespread alarm and confusion."
I suppose the observed reduction is good news, but I wonder why these women were guinea pigs in the first place. Very sad for all the women who unneccesarily suffered from this terrible disease.
So what would happen if there was a moratorium on in-vitro fertilization procedures? Might we also see a steep decline in breast cancer? I've read that there's no link between IVF and breast cancer, but I don't quite believe it. It's known that hormones taken during IVF can stimulate an existing breast cancer. But how many women yearning for a baby stop to think about that possibility? IVF treatments involve self-administration of follicle-stimulating hormones before eggs are harvested, and progesterone afterwards to prepare the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg.
Two women in their mid-30's whom I know were diagnosed with breast cancer within several months of undergoing IVF treatments. One has survived five years and is doing well. The other woman is not doing well, she's valiantly fighting a cancer that has now spread to her spine. She and her husband have three young children, whose mother has been sick for most of their lives. Yes, I know, this is limited, anecdotal evidence. But l don't have a good feeling about the medical experimenting we're allowing on young women.