Medical professionals have long known that post-menopausal women who are taking hormone-replacement therapy may benefit from breast cancer testing, as this treatment can increase the risk of the disease. Now, a new study from Michigan State University researchers has shown why there is an increase in risk.
They found that estrogen and progesterone, which are components of many hormone therapies, interact in such a way that increases breast cancer risk. They found that these hormones must be present for the production of a protein called epidermal growth factor that binds to breast cells and enables cancer cell growth.
The researchers said that they hope their findings will result in the development of new therapies for breast cancer. By targeting these hormones, they believe that medications may be able to prevent cancer cells from gaining a foothold in healthy tissue.
"This may be especially important in premenopausal breast cancer because women produce their own estrogen and progesterone," said Sandra Haslam, who led the study. "A combined approach of inhibiting both the hormones and the epidermal growth factor receptor may be beneficial for some women in treating hormone-dependent breast cancer."
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