Hormone Therapy May Reduce Risk of Lung Cancer in Female Patients, Despite Former Misperceptions

Get Permission

Investigators have demonstrated that, despite some commonly held misperceptions, hormone therapy doesn’t increase patients’ risk of developing lung cancer—and it could help reduce the risk, according to a 16-year population-based study published by Wu et al in Menopause.

The findings may help dispel controversies surrounding hormone therapy’s benefits and risks that have dominated the women’s health field for more than 20 years.


Lung cancer remains one of the most common malignancies and the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide, and is the most common type of cancer after breast cancer in female patients—with its incidence increasing over the past few decades. Although smoking remains the main risk factor for developing lung cancer, it is estimated that 20% to 50% of those with the disease are nonsmokers.

Because the characteristics of lung cancer in female patients differ from those in male patients, researchers have previously speculated that such sex-related differences could be explained by hormonal factors. Several earlier studies have suggested that an increase in sex-steroid hormones can influence cell biology and contribute to the development and progression of lung cancer in female patients through binding with hormone receptors. Other studies have produced conflicting results—suggesting that female patients have a lower risk of lung cancer during their reproductive years.

Results from these studies have been inconsistent and conflicting regarding the association between hormone therapy and the risk of lung cancer development—some proposing that hormone therapy may lead to a greater risk, while others have argued the contrary.

Study Methods and Results

In the new study, the investigators examined the association between hormone therapy and lung cancer risk in 38,104 postmenopausal patients on the basis of dosage. After 16 years of follow-up, they discovered that hormone therapy may not be associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in postmenopausal patients. In fact, their findings suggested that with a higher cumulative dosage of hormone therapy or a therapy duration that lasted longer than 5 years, the risk of developing lung cancer decreased.


“This population-based study showed that hormone therapy use was not associated with lung cancer risk and, further, that it may be linked with a lower risk of lung cancer. This is reassuring for [female patients] weighing the cumulative risks and benefits of hormone therapy for [the] management of menopause symptoms or osteoporosis prevention,” commented Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, Professor of Medicine, Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, and the Penny and Bill George Director of the Center for Women’s Health at the Mayo Clinic, as well as Medical Director of the North American Menopause Society.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.