Hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer risk in California

Nathan J. Coombs, Richard Taylor, Nicholas Wilcken, James Fiorica, John Boyages*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies have documented increased breast cancer risks with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but these do not give a woman her specific absolute risk for the remainder of her life. This article estimates the magnitude of the effect of HRT on breast cancer incidence in California and calculates a woman's cumulative risk of breast cancer with different formulations and durations of HRT use. The effects of HRT on the underlying breast cancer incidence were estimated using the attributable fraction method, applying HRT prevalence data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey and published rates of higher relative risk (RR) from HRT use from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study and Million Women's Survey (MWS). The annual number of breast cancers potentially attributable to HRT in California was estimated, along with individual cumulative risk of breast cancer for various ages to 79 years according to HRT use, duration, and formulation. Using the WHI data, 829 of 19,000 breast cancers (4.3%) in California may be attributable to HRT. This figure increases to 3401 (17.4%) when the MWS RRs are applied. Use of estrogen-only HRT or short-term (approximately 5 years) use of combined HRT has a minimal effect on the cumulative risk calculated to the age of 79 years; application of the MWS data to a Californian woman commencing HRT at the age of 50 years (no HRT, 8.5%; estrogen only, 8.6%; combined, 9.1%). Prolonged (approximately 10 years) use of combined HRT increases the cumulative risk to 10.3%. This article demonstrates that HRT will generate a small additional risk of breast cancer in an individual. The reduction in perimenopausal symptoms may be considered sufficient to warrant this extra risk. However, this view needs to be balanced because the small increases in individual risk will be magnified, producing a noticeable change in population cancer caseload where HRT use is high.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-415
Number of pages6
JournalBreast Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Progesterone
  • Risk

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