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Title Hormones May Reduce Gastric Cancer Risk in Women
Date 1 Dec 2010
Full Story A new Spanish study has shown that ovarian hormones might protect against gastric cancer, which might explain why the worldwide incidence of this cancer is lower in women.
Dr. Duell of the Catalan Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, and colleagues analyzed data from The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
The cohort study, reported online November 4th in the American Journal of Epidemiology, involved more than 335,000 women aged 35 to 70 years. During a mean follow-up of 8.7 years, 181 women developed gastric cancer.
Twenty-five women had had their ovaries removed (oophorectomy); these women had an increased gastric cancer risk compared to those who had not (hazard ratio, 1.79). The risk was even higher in women who didn't use hormone replacement therapy after oophorectomy (HR 2.25) compared to women with intact ovaries who used HRT.

The total number of years of normal menstrual cycles was inversely associated with gastric cancer so that the longer a woman produced ovarian hormones, the lower was her risk.
The findings "support the hypothesis that ovarian hormonal factors protect some women from developing gastric cancer," Dr. Duell said. "However, the mechanisms of how estrogens or other ovarian hormones may lower gastric cancer risk are not known."

At this point, he stressed, "since hormone replacement therapy is complex and has both beneficial and harmful effects, our study should not be used to recommend any form of hormonal treatment or replacement as a way to prevent gastric cancer."

Am J Epidemiol. Posted online October 4, 2010.

Previous studies have also shown a reduced risk of colorectal cancer in women who have used HRT and since there is little understanding as to why or how hormones should have such an effect, it does seem to be an area which requires more research. We should not currently use HRT purely for the prevention of gastric or bowel cancer, but this may be another benefit which can be included in the equation when balancing risks against benefits.

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