Raised levels of sex and growth hormones could triple breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women

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Raised levels of sex and growth hormones can triple the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women, a study has shown.

Scientists looked at the combined effect of hormones on a woman's cancer chances - and found that one hormone at higher than normal levels increased the breast cancer risk by 10 per cent.

But the risk for women with five or six hormones at raised levels was doubled, while having seven or eight tripled the odds of getting cancer.

Researchers say the findings will help improve breast cancer risk assessment.


The U.S. researchers compared levels of eight hormones in blood samples collected from 33,000 nurses aged 43 to 69.

They included different types of oestrogen, testosterone and other 'male' hormones - or androgens - and prolactin which stimulates the production of breast milk. Levels of two growth hormones were also measured.

Over a period of nine years, the scientists identified 320 post-menopausal women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and not on hormone-replacement therapy.

Hormone levels in the cancer patients were matched against those of women who did not develop the disease.


The findings, published today in the journal Breast Cancer Research, showed that 'ER positive' breast cancers with molecular receptors sensitive to oestrogen were the most influenced by hormone levels.

Dr Shelley Tworoger, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who lead the study, said: 'Elevated oestrogens had the biggest effect on risk, especially for ER positive (oestrogen-sensitive) cancer.


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