Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Recent trends in hormone therapy utilization and breast cancer incidence rates in the high incidence population of Marin County, California

Rochelle R Ereman1*, Lee Ann Prebil1, Mary Mockus2, Kathy Koblick1, Fern Orenstein3, Christopher Benz4 and Christina A Clarke5

Author Affiliations

1 County of Marin, Department of Health and Human Services, 20 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael, CA 94903, USA

2 Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, 99 Monticello Rd, San Rafael, CA 94903, USA

3 Zero Breast Cancer, 4340 Redwood Hwy, Suite C400, San Rafael, CA 94903, USA

4 Buck Institute for Age Research, 8001 Redwood Blvd Novato, CA 94945, USA

5 Cancer Prevention Institute of California, 2201 Walnut Ave., Suite 300 Fremont, CA, 94538, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:228  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-228

Published: 30 April 2010



Recent declines in invasive breast cancer have been reported in the US, with many studies linking these declines to reductions in the use of combination estrogen/progestin hormone therapy (EPHT). We evaluated the changing use of postmenopausal hormone therapy, mammography screening rates, and the decline in breast cancer incidence specifically for Marin County, California, a population with historically elevated breast cancer incidence rates.


The Marin Women's Study (MWS) is a community-based, prospective cohort study launched in 2006 to monitor changes in breast cancer, breast density, and personal and biologic risk factors among women living in Marin County. The MWS enrolled 1,833 women following routine screening mammography between October 2006 and July 2007. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire that included items regarding historical hormone therapy regimen (estrogen only, progesterone only, EPHT), age of first and last use, total years of use, and reason(s) for stopping, as well as information regarding complementary hormone use. Questionnaire items were analyzed for 1,083 non-Hispanic white participants ages 50 and over. Breast cancer incidence rates were assessed overall and by tumor histology and estrogen receptor (ER) status for the years 1990-2007 using data from the Northern California Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registry.


Prevalence of EPHT use among non-Hispanic white women ages 50 and over declined sharply from 21.2% in 1998 to 6.7% by 2006-07. Estrogen only use declined from 26.9% in 1998 to 22.4% by 2006-07. Invasive breast cancer incidence rates declined 33.4% between 2001 and 2004, with drops most pronounced for ER+ cancers. These rate reductions corresponded to declines of about 50 cases per year, consistent with population attributable fraction estimates for EPHT-related breast cancer. Self-reported screening mammography rates did not change during this period. Use of alternative or complementary agents did not differ significantly between ever and never hormone users. Of women who reported stopping EPHT in the past 5 years, 60% cited "health risks" or "news reports" as their primary reasons for quitting.


A dramatic reduction in EPHT use was followed temporally by a significant reduction in invasive and ER+ breast cancer rates among women living in Marin County, California.