Review on October 20, 2009
Breast tenderness can be problematic for women of all ages. However, breast tenderness might also be a sign that something is seriously wrong, especially for women going through menopause. HRT might also be indirectly involved with breast tenderness. The 2006 study by Crandall et al. Association of New-Onset Breast Discomfort with an Increase in Mammographic Density During Hormone Therapy explores the effects that the hormone replacement therapies (HRT's) estrogen and progestin have on breast tissue density in pre and postmenopausal women. The study takes the novel route of investigating whether breast tenderness is in fact a sign of breast-tissue density. It is important to know about breast tenderness since breast-tissue density is a risk factor for breast cancer.
The study monitored thirty-three postmenopausal women who had taken HRT for an average of eleven months. For the control group, thirty-one postmenopausal women who had never taken HRT were studied. Each group was subject to a periodic mammogram and then asked to rate their breast tenderness as being mild, moderate or severe. Reported increases in breast tenderness were linked with augmentations in breast-tissue density of women taking HRT. However, none of the women in the control group reported an instance of breast tenderness.
Severe breast tenderness was most strongly linked to changes in breast-tissue density, while the relationship between mild breast tenderness and breast-tissue density were not as strong. Women taking all types of HRT reported an increase in breast tenderness that was linked with breast-tissue density. Some of the changes in breast tenderness and its link with breast-tissue density took place as soon as four months into the HRT therapy. Of the twenty-one women taking HRT who did not experience breast tenderness, only two were found to have increased breast-tissue density. The increased breast-tissue density in women taking HRT that was signaled by breast tenderness was found to take place primarily in one place, a few places or as a diffusion throughout the entire breast.
High breast-tissue density, and the accompanying breast tenderness in women taking HRT cannot be overstressed as a risk factor for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society ranks high breast-tissue density, and its accompanying breast tenderness, in the highest risk category for breast cancer. Women with breast tenderness and high breast-tissue density in more than seventy-five percent of the breast had a four-fold increase in the risk of breast cancer compared to women who did not have high breast-tissue density. If one is of the age where one is going through menopause, no matter what stage it may be, and one is taking HRT, the results of this study show that breast tenderness is something that is very important to pay attention to. This study also established that breast tenderness is a side effect of taking HRT.
- JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical Association - Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1578-1584.