, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp 575-580

Risk of endometrial cancer following cessation of menopausal hormone use (Washington, United States)

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While there are a number of benefits to the health of postmenopausal women from use of unopposed estrogens, the increased risk of endometrial cancer related to these hormones has led many women to use combined estrogen-progestogen therapy instead, or not to use hormones at all. Most women who take hormones do so only in the early portion of their postmenopausal years, so the risk of endometrial cancer following cessation of use might bear heavily on the overal risk/benefit evaluation. We analyzed data from a case-control study of women in western Washington (United States) to assess the magnitude of excess risk of endometrial cancer following discontinuation of estrogen use. Cases (n=661) consisted of women aged 45 to 74 diagnosed between 1985 and 1991 who resided in one of three counties in Washington State. Controls (n=865) were identified by random-digit dialing. Subjects were interviewed in-person to ascertain current and prior hormone use. The analysis was restricted to women who had not received combined estrogen-progestin therapy. Among women who had used unopposed estrogens at some time, risk of endometrial cancer declined as time since last use increased. Nonetheless, even among women who used these hormones for just a few years, the risk remained elevated by 30 to 70 percent almost a decade after cessation. These results, combined with those of most (but not all) other studies of this issue, suggest that a woman who has discontinued unopposed estrogen therapy may retain a small increased risk of endometrial cancer for a long period of time.

Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington Department of Biostatistics University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. This research was supported by US National Cancer Institute contracts R01 CA47749 and R35 CA39779.