Progestins and breast cancer: An epidemiologic review

J. A. Staffa, C. J. Newschaffer, J. K. Jones, V. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Objective: To provide a worldwide review of all studies that have examined the relationship between progestins, as contained in both contraceptive and postmenopausal replacement therapies, and breast cancer risk. An overview of utilization patterns for progestins, as well as a review of possible biological mechanisms for progestins' action on breast tissue, are also presented. Data Identification: All major epidemiologic studies conducted since 1980 have been identified through MEDLINE searches through the published literature and personal communications with prominent researchers in the area. Study Selection: Only studies that specifically examined the effects of progestin use are discussed here; these include investigations of progestins, in combination or singularly, as the main hypothesis or a subgroup analysis. Results: The majority of studies have examined combination estrogen and progestin products (oral contraceptives), and subgroup analyses of progestins have been impeded by low statistical power and the fact that each progestin possesses different types of pharmacological activity. Only a few studies of long-acting injectable progestins exist, confirming a general lack of specific information on the progesterone-breast cancer relationship. Investigations of the effect on breast cancer of the addition of progestins to postmenopausal replacement therapy have also produced inconsistent results. Conclusions: To date, there is no consistent evidence of an association between progestins and breast cancer. There is need for further study, particularly of patients in potentially high-risk groups, including those with (1) extended hormone exposure before age 25 and/or first full term pregnancy and (2) exposure in the postmenopausal period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-491
Number of pages19
JournalFertility and sterility
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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