Good Science, Bad Conclusions

Of course, today we have medications that effectively treat breast cancer by blocking estrogens or significantly reducing the amount of estrogen in the body.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to take a wait-and-see attitude about what is going on here as a result of these new reports. I don't believe we have the explanation in hand as to why the incidence of breast cancer dropped so dramatically in 2003.

I suspect that what we are seeing is a combination of factors, including fewer women getting mammograms, which in turn means fewer breast cancers are being diagnosed.

I suspect that there is indeed some positive benefit from the decreased emphasis on combination HRT, which years from now will contribute to a true decline in the incidence of breast cancer.

I do not believe the sudden drop in breast cancer incidence is because 11 percent of breast cancers in some of the post-menopausal women have suddenly disappeared or no longer exist.

Which brings me to my concluding comments:

The greatest tragedy here is if women and their doctors become complacent about ordering and receiving mammograms.

We recommend that a woman at average risk aged 40 and over should have a mammogram and clinical breast examinations annually.

If you are a post-menopausal women who either stopped taking hormones or never took hormones, please do not delude yourself into thinking that you don't need a mammogram.

If my contrarian viewpoint is correct, and that discontinuation of HRT simply slowed down the growth of breast cancers that already existed, then not getting a mammogram every year could be the worst decision you make for your health.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Read a longer version of this commentary, as well as comments on other ongoing cancer news, at his blog.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 2729670.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...