In 2002, the Women's Health Initiative study linked hormone replacement therapy, a popular menopause remedy, to breast cancer. Women got the message and immediately changed course in their menopause treatment, resulting in a shaper decline in breast cancer rates the following year. But those rates are no longer falling.
In a new study conducted by Carol DeSantis, a researcher at the American Cancer Society, researchers looked at national data on invasive breast cancers from 2000-2007. They found that while breast cancer rates dropped sharply — by 7 percent among white women in 2003 — that decline did not continue from 2003 to 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.
According to researchers, there was no steep drop in breast cancer rates among black and Hispanic women in the 2002 to 2003 period, and there have been no significant changes in those groups in the 2003 to 2007 period.
According to DeSantis, breast cancer rates rose in the 1980s and 1990s as breast cancer awareness grew and more women were screened via mammograms. She said the rates also rose as hormone replacement therapy became more popular as a treatment for the symptoms of menopause.
But rates among white women reversed in 2002 after the Women's Health Initiative study found the link between women who used hormone replacement therapy and incidence of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, strokes and other health problems.
DeSantis' study was recently published online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.