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The association between history of postmenopausal hormone use as of 1976 and breast cancer incidence during 1976-1980 was examined prospectively among 33,335 married, postmenopausal registered nurses aged 30-55 years at entry. Half the women reported postmenopausal hormone use, and one fourth had taken these drugs for over five years. During 1976-1980, 221 new cases of breast cancer were identified. The relative risk (RR) for those who had used postmenopausal hormones when compared with women who had never used them was 1.1 (95% confidence limits (CL) 0.8, 1.4); for current and past users, the relative risks were 1.0 (95% CL 0.7, 1.4) and 1.3 (95% CL 0.9, 1.8), respectively. These ratios were not substantially modified by whether or not a woman's ovaries had been removed or by other known breast cancer risk factors. No increase in breast cancer risk was apparent among women who had used postmenopausal hormones for less than five years (RR = 1.0, 95% CL 0.5, 1.6). An apparent effect among the subgroup of women who had used them for five to nine years (RR = 1.5, 95% CL 1.0, 2.2) was not present among the few women with longer-term use (RR = 0.9, 95% CL 0.4, 1.6). These findings are moderately reassuring, but since there are as yet few women in this cohort with long-term durations of use and, particularly, with long intervals since first use, continued follow-up of this and other cohorts will be required before firm conclusions can be drawn, especially among specific subgroups.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Epidemiol

Publication Date





939 - 947


Adult, Breast Neoplasms, Estrogens, Female, Humans, Menopause, Middle Aged, Prospective Studies, Risk, Time Factors, United States