Health Watch - Breast Cancer: Estrogen Without Cancer

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This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about breast cancer, in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Treatment with estrogen has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer, but this treatment is also effective for preventing heart disease in women. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center may have found a way to get the benefits from estrogen without the cancer risks.

Women have a lower risk for heart disease than men, until they go through menopause. Once their estrogen levels drop, their risk for heart disease increases. UT Southwestern researchers are looking into how estrogen protects the heart and blood vessels. They found that a synthetic molecule can have the same effect on blood vessels as estrogen by triggering receptor cells outside the cell nuclei. Dr. Philip Shaul, who led the study, says estrogen-related drugs change the function of receptors in the nuclei, which triggers the cell growth that leads to cancer. This new molecule didn’t promote tumor growth in laboratory studies.


October 2010

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