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Editor's note: Since this story was first published, new information has been released on health risks associated with estrogen replacement therapy. On April 13, 2004, the National Institutes of Health released a statement citing evidence that estrogen-only therapy increases women's risk of stroke and deep vein thrombosis. Due to this evidence, the estrogen-only section of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study was halted prematurely in February 2004. In 2007, a new study of the WHI data examined the effects of hormone therapy by age group. This study found that the incidence of stroke risk increased 32 percent with hormone therapy across all age groups. It also revealed that even in younger women, there was an increased risk of breast cancer with estrogen and progestin therapy.
July 16, 2002 | Women who take estrogen for many years may be at increased risk for ovarian cancer, according to new findings published in the July 17, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In a study known as the Women's Health Initiative, researchers at the National Cancer Institute used patient interviews and medical records to track the history of hormone use and cancer among 44,241 women. Overall, women who took only estrogen were 60 percent more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who didn't take any hormones. Among women who took estrogen for 20 years or more, the risk of the disease was roughly three times higher than average.
The findings are significant for women who have had hysterectomies and are taking estrogen alone without progesterone. Women who took estrogen combined with the hormone progestin -- a synthetic form of progesterone -- did not seem to be at increased risk for ovarian cancer.