Objective: To determine whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after treatment for breast cancer is associated with increased risk of recurrence and mortality.
Design: Retrospective observational study.
Participants and setting: Postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer and treated by five Sydney doctors between 1964 and 1999.
Outcome measures: Times from diagnosis to cancer recurrence or new breast cancer, to death from all causes and to death from primary tumour were compared between women who used HRT for menopausal symptoms after diagnosis and those who did not. Relative risks (RRs) were determined from Cox regression analyses, adjusted for patient and tumour characteristics.Results: 1122 women were followed up for 0–36 years (median, 6.08 years); 154 were lost to follow-up. 286 women used HRT for menopausal symptoms for up to 26 years (median, 1.75 years). Compared with non-users, HRT users had reduced risk of cancer recurrence (adjusted relative risk [RR], 0.62; 95% CI, 0.43–0.87), all-cause mortality (RR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.19–0.59) and death from primary tumour (RR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.22–0.72). Continuous combined HRT was associated with a reduced risk of death from primary tumour (RR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.12–0.88) and all-cause mortality (RR, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.10–0.73).
HRT use for menopausal symptoms by women treated for primary invasive breast cancer is not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence or shortened life expectancy.
In contrast, our results suggest that HRT is a safe treatment for women with a history of breast cancer. These results need to be confirmed in a randomised trial before HRT can be advocated for all women who have had breast cancer. However, we believe that the current practice of withholding HRT from women with breast cancer who suffer menopausal symptoms may need review.
Hormone replacement therapy after breast cancer: a systematic review and quantitative assessment of risk.
Division of General Medicine and Decision Systems Group, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA. ncol@Dsg.harvard.edu
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is typically withheld from women with breast cancer because of concern that it might increase the risk of recurrence. The purpose of this study was to quantify the risk of recurrent breast cancer associated with HRT among breast cancer survivors.
We performed a systematic literature review through May 1999, calculating the relative risk (RR) of breast cancer recurrence in each study by comparing the number of recurrences in the HRT group to those in the control group. In studies that did not contain a control group, we constructed one by estimating the expected number of recurrences based on data from the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group, adjusting for nodal status and disease-free interval. RRs across all studies were combined using random-effects models.
Of the 11 eligible studies, four had control groups and included 214 breast cancer survivors who began HRT after a mean disease-free interval of 52 months. Over a mean follow-up of 30 months, 17 of 214 HRT users experienced recurrence (4.2% per year), compared with 66 of 623 controls (5.4% per year). HRT did not seem to affect breast cancer recurrence risk (RR = 0.64, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.36 to 1.15). Including all 11 studies in the analyses (669 HRT users), using estimated control groups for the seven uncontrolled trials, the combined RR was 0.82 (95% CI, 0.58 to 1.15).
Although our analyses suggest that HRT has no significant effect on breast cancer recurrence, these findings were based on observational data subject to a variety of biases
Safety and efficacy of tibolone in breast-cancer patients with vasomotor symptoms: a double-blind, randomised, non-inferiority trial.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org
Vasomotor symptoms and bone loss are complications frequently induced by adjuvant treatment for breast cancer. Tibolone prevents both side-effects, but its effect on cancer recurrence is unknown. The aim of this study was to show non-inferiority of tibolone to placebo regarding risk of recurrence in breast-cancer patients with climacteric complaints.
Between July 11, 2002, and Dec 20, 2004, women surgically treated for a histologically confirmed breast cancer (T(1-3)N(0-2)M(0)) with vasomotor symptoms were randomly assigned to either tibolone 2.5 mg daily or placebo at 245 centres in 31 countries. Randomisation was done by use of a centralised interactive voice response system, stratified by centre, with a block size of four. The primary endpoint was breast-cancer recurrence, including contralateral breast cancer, and was analysed in the intention-to-treat (ITT) and per-protocol populations; the margin for non-inferiority was set as a hazard ratio of 1.278. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00408863.
Of the 3148 women randomised, 3098 were included in the ITT analysis (1556 in the tibolone group and 1542 in the placebo group). Mean age at randomisation was 52.7 years (SD 7.3) and mean time since surgery was 2.1 years (SD 1.3). 1792 of 3098 (58%) women were node positive and 2185 of 3098 (71%) were oestrogen-receptor positive. At study entry, 2068 of 3098 (67%) women used tamoxifen and 202 of 3098 (6.5%) women used aromatase inhibitors. The mean daily number of hot flushes was 6.4 (SD 5.1). After a median follow-up of 3.1 years (range 0.01-4.99), 237 of 1556 (15.2%) women on tibolone had a cancer recurrence, compared with 165 of 1542 (10.7%) on placebo (HR 1.40 [95% CI 1.14-1.70]; p=0.001). Results in the per-protocol population were similar (209 of 1254 [16.7%] women in the tibolone group had a recurrence vs 138 of 1213 [11.4%] women in the placebo group; HR 1.44 [95% CI 1.16-1.79]; p=0.0009). Tibolone was not different from placebo with regard to other safety outcomes, such as mortality (72 patients vs 63 patients, respectively), cardiovascular events (14 vs 10, respectively), or gynaecological cancers (10 vs 10, respectively). Vasomotor symptoms and bone-mineral density improved significantly with tibolone, compared with placebo.
Tibolone increases the risk of recurrence in breast cancer patients, while relieving vasomotor symptoms and preventing bone loss.
Schering-Plough (formerly NV Organon, Oss, Netherlands).
- Tibolone: the risk is too high. [Lancet Oncol. 2009]