What's Behind a Drop in Breast Cancer? - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

What's Behind a Drop in Breast Cancer?

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You've no doubt heard the news that breast cancer cases have dropped by seven percent in the most recent figures. Doctors and women are celebrating, but what caused the drop?

Las Vegas oncologist, Heather Allen is excited at the news. Researchers at MD Anderson found a 7-percent decline in all types of breast cancer between 2002 and 2003. 

Dr. Allen said, "For all those years in the 1990s, when the incidence of breast cancer went up 2-percent every year, you have to start really asking -- is it our environment, our genes? What is it? And try to eliminate those factors."

The authors of the study said the most likely reason for the drop is the decreased use of hormone replacement therapy. When it was linked to increased problems back in 2002, prescriptions dropped in half. Dr. Allen says it's too soon to draw steadfast conclusions, but the data falls in line with other recent findings.

"I think we have felt for a long time that there is a connection between long term use of hormone replacement therapy and the incidence of breast cancer. And the Women's Health Initiative, which was a very large federal study, that was reported in 2002, made that connection very clear," Dr. Allen continued.

But there could be other reasons. Dr. Allen believes the major decline may also be related to the increased use of Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women.

She said, "In high risk women, they treated half of them with Tamoxifen for five years and didn't treat the other half. And there was a 50-percent decrease in the incidence of breast cancer in the women who took Tamoxifen. So, since the late 1990s, we've seen more use of Tamoxifen in high risk women."

Whatever the cause is found to be, the best news is that so many thousands of women did not have to hear those frightening words, "you have breast cancer."

The 7-percent drop found by researchers translated to 14,000 fewer women with breast cancer.

Email your comments to Anchor Paula Francis or Medical Producer Rick Andrews.

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