Role of Hormone Therapy in Lung Cancer

Risk of Lung Cancer with Combined HRT

Several studies in recent years have pointed towards the role of hormone therapy in lung cancer. The women who undertake hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to reduce the symptoms of menopause may be at a higher risk of dying from lung cancer. The link is more clearly found between HRT and non-small cell lung cancer. Most studies have not been able to establish a link between HRT and development of lung cancer, but a woman who develops lung cancer due to other reasons may have a higher likelihood of dying from it if she has undergone hormone therapy.

The leading cause of lung cancer by far is smoking. Studies have not been able to establish whether combined hormone replacement therapy results in formation of lung tumor, or induces the existing tumor to spread faster. However, there is a pattern of increased chances of death from lung cancer for women who have been through combined HRT. Therefore, it is recommended that women who smoke or used to smoke in the past should consult with their physician before going ahead with combined HRT.

WHI Study on the Role of Hormone Therapy in Lung Cancer

A detailed study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) has indicated that women who used a combination therapy of estrogen and progestin to treat menopausal symptoms were at a higher risk of dying from lung cancer. The data analysis shows that combined HRT did not result in a higher incidence of lung cancer, but a higher number of deaths. “The Lancet” published the results of this study in 2009.

Some medical researchers are of the opinion that estrogen has a natural property of angiogenesis, which is stimulation of the growth of blood vessels. This may cause the cancerous cells to grow rapidly, resulting in an increased number of deaths from lung cancer. One more likely reason of an increase in death rate from lung cancer in such patients may be that the introduction of hormones in the body could delay the detection of lung cancer, causing an increased number of deaths.

Link Between Duration of HRT and Risk of Lung Cancer

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2010 indicated that not only are women between the age group of 50 and 76 who take estrogen and progestin combined treatment at a higher risk of lung cancer, but the risk is also duration dependent. Women who have been undergoing the therapy for more than 10 years are at the highest risk of developing lung tumors. The risk for these women goes up by about 50 percent compared to women who have not used HRT.

Researchers are now increasingly of the opinion that combined HRT use should be avoided except for short-term treatment of menopausal symptoms. However, in relative terms, the risk of developing lung cancer from combined HRT continues to be minuscule when compared to the risk from smoking. Therefore, millions of women smokers continue to remain at the risk of developing this disease even if they avoid hormone therapy.


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