Want to increase your chances of getting node-positive breast cancer and dying from it? Take hormone therapy.
Pharma's lucrative estrogen plus progestin combo is already known to increase the chance of getting breast cancer by 26 percent. But an article in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows hormone therapy also increases the chance of dying from breast cancer, as follow-ups are conducted on women who took it.
In fact hormone therapy, already indicted for causing delays in breast cancer diagnosis by increasing breast density (and increasing lung cancer deaths) is now so dangerous Dr. Peter B. Bach from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who wrote an accompanying JAMA editorial, told the New York Times the very advice of "taking the lowest possible doses for the shortest possible time" is now questionable. Perhaps like prescribing the fewest and lowest tar cigarettes as possible.
It is hard to image men putting up with a therapy for "outliving their testes" that kills and maims them decade after decade. Women given Premarin for their "estrogn deficiency" in the 1980s developed so much endometrial cancer, the cancer rate dropped when they quit taking the drug. Five years ago, the same thing happened with breast cancer when women quit Prempro. Who can say "iatrodemic" physician-caused epidemic? Who can say fool me twice?
Both Prempro and Premarin are made by Wyeth, now part of Pfizer.
And just as hormone therapy is repackaged for a new generation of women, so are pharma friendly press stories that push it, as Parade's fabled piece with the model Lauren Hutton who extols hormone therapy did some years ago.
In April, the New York Times magazine ran a pro-hormone piece called The Estrogen Dilemma by Cynthia Gorney, relying on five Wyeth-linked researchers whose conflicts of interests were not disclosed. Three, Claudio Soares, Louann Brizendine and Thomas Clarkson have served on Wyeth's speaker boards. Oops.
In 2009, the Washington Post ran a pro-hormone piece lifted intact from Massachusetts General Hospital's industry-friendly magazine, where it ran next to a piece pushing hormone therapy for coronary heart disease written by Wyeth-linked doctors. Hormone therapy causes a 29 percent increase in heart attacks according to the Women's Health Initiative.
Hormone therapy is also linked to asthma, lupus, scleroderma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, urinary incontinence, hearing loss, cataracts, gout, joint degeneration, dementia, stroke, blood clots, malignant melanoma, and five other kinds of cancer according to medical journals reports.
Nor does industry want to let go of the hormone gravy train.
Oblivious to the JAMA article and many others, trials are underway with NIH tax dollars, to see if women given hormones earlier than menopause will be helped instead of hurt. (Let's start smoking at 12!) In addition to the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study trials at major medical centers conducted by several Wyeth-linked researchers, Wake Forest and Mount Sinai medical school researchers are conducting hormone experiments on ovariectomized primates. (Like Premarin mares, immobilized on pee lines, their offspring killed, female primates suffer unduly from hormone therapy.)
In fact animal researchers presented data from primate experiments at a North American Menopause Society symposium, funded by the National Institute on Aging , last year.
"We have developed an adult female nonhuman primate model of depression in cynomolgus monkeys, which have been used effectively for decades to model CHD [coronary heart disease] risk in women," said the researchers. "Like women, socially stressed monkeys are more likely to become depressed."
Start 'em early researchers, some implicated in Wyeth ghostwriting scandals, also say hormones are "neuroprotective," despite the fact that the federal Women's Health Initiative Memory Study found hormone therapy doubles the risk of all dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, in older women, making brains actually shrink. And the fact that some studies suggest that earlier hormone treatment increases breast cancer risk.
But instead of banning or restricting a drug that over 5,000 women say gave them cancer; a drug whose discontinuation caused cancer rates to drop, women are told to "weigh" the risks and benefits with their doctors. But how do women do that "when you don't know what the risks are?" asks Dr. Bach in a Times interview this week.
"Does that mean if we have an adverse outcome as a result of our decision that we will be again blamed?" asks Dr. Janette Sherman in a book, Life's Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer, which exposed hormone therapy's cancer links ten years ago, when pharma still "didn't know." http://www.janettesherman.com/books.html
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