The connection between cancer and hormones still controversial

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

September 19, 1999|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q.When I went through menopause six years ago, my doctor prescribed Premarin and Provera for hot flashes. Three years ago, he switched me to Prempro. I wondered whether I needed to continue on hormone replacement therapy, but he was very insistent that hormones would be beneficial for my bones and my heart.

Three months ago, a routine mammogram showed that I had early stages of breast cancer. Since then, my life has been turned upside down. I've had surgery and am taking chemotherapy.

When I asked my doctor if the hormones contributed to my breast cancer, he got very defensive and denied any connection. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. Please send me any information you might have on hormone replacement therapy so I can find out for myself.

A.The role of hormone replacement therapy in the development of breast cancer remains controversial. Increasing evidence indicates, however, that estrogen may raise a woman's chance of breast cancer about 30 percent to 40 percent. The higher the dose and the longer a woman takes this hormone, the more her risk rises. There is no way anyone can tell if your cancer was triggered by the estrogen you took.

Q. Rimadyl is prescribed by veterinarians for animals suffering from arthritis or hip problems. It works wonders for my German shepherd.

I asked the vet why this drug wouldn't be good for humans who have the same difficulties (as I do). All he said was not to use it. Why not? Is there a drug of the same composition available for people?

A. Rimadyl (carprofen) was originally developed for human use, but toxicity problems kept it out of drugstores. It resurfaced as a veterinary medication to relieve aches and pains of arthritis. Side effects in dogs can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and liver and kidney damage. Labrador retrievers seem especially vulnerable to liver problems with this medicine.

We agree with your vet that it would be inappropriate for you to take your dog's medicine. It is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in the same cat-egory as ibuprofen or naproxen.

If stomach upset is a problem for you with NSAIDs, you may wish to talk to your doctor about the new COX-2 blockers like Celebrex or Vioxx.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail them at their Web site (www.peoplespharmacy.com).

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