LHRH agonists and the prevention of breast and ovarian cancer.
Pike MC., Ross RK., Lobo RA., Key TJ., Potts M., Henderson BE.
Early age at natural menopause or bilateral ovariectomy substantially reduce a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer. Reversible 'bilateral ovariectomy' can now in effect be achieved by 'high-dose' luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists (LHRHAs). The harmful effects of such medical reversible bilateral ovariectomy, in particular the increased risks of coronary heart disease and osteoporosis, can in all likelihood be obviated by 'low-dose' oestrogen replacement therapy (ERT), specifically 0.625 mg of conjugated equine oestrogens (CEE) for 21 days in each 28-day treatment cycle, and such ERT use will only negate to a relatively small extent the beneficial effect of such bilateral ovariectomy on breast cancer risk. We calculate that such an LHRHA plus low-dose ERT regimen given to a premenopausal woman for 10 years will, in addition to being a most effective contraceptive, decrease her lifetime risk of breast cancer by more than 50%. We calculate that such a 10-year regimen will also decrease her risk of ovarian cancer by two-thirds. This regimen should leave endometrial cancer risk and bone metabolism unaltered, and may reduce the risk of heart disease. The addition of a 'low-dose' progestogen to the regimen for 12 days in each 28-day treatment cycle would be beneficial to the endometrium, but it will adversely affect risk factors for heart disease and it may significantly reduce the benefit of the regimen as regards breast cancer. A satisfactory compromise may be to add a low-dose progestogen for 12 days at less frequent intervals. Another possibility may be to deliver a progestogen solely to the endometrium with an intra-uterine device; the benefits of such a regimen would be a significant reduction in the incidence of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer.