Vistas: Highlights of Recent Research at the UW

No Breast Cancer Risk
Found In Therapy For
Postmenopausal Women

For many years physicians have prescribed hormones for women after they reach menopause, but in the past some studies have suggested a link between these treatments and breast cancer.

New research findings can put their minds at ease. Women who take estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progestin as hormone replacement therapy apparently do not face an increased risk of breast cancer, according to UW Epidemiology Professor Janet Stanford, who works at the Division of Public Health Sciences at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Stanford and colleagues studied 1,029 women in Washington between the ages of 50 and 64. More than half had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Postmenopausal hormone therapy of some type was reported by 57.6 percent of the cancer cases and 61 percent of the control group.

"We found no overall association between breast cancer risk and the use of either estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin" in postmenopausal hormone therapy, Stanford wrote. Long-term use of estrogen-progestin (eight years or more) was associated with "a reduction in risk of breast cancer," she added.

Mount St. Helens Still
Most Likely to Blow
Says UW Seismologist

After blowing its top off 15 years ago, Mount St. Helens still remains the number one threat along the line of Cascade Mountain volcanoes, says UW Seismologist Steve Malone.

Malone tracked the volcano's rumblings before, during and after its May 18, 1980 eruption and he says it still is the most likely mountain to blow up in our lifetime. "But that is based only on its history, not on what it is doing now," he adds. "St. Helens' seismic activity is down to a level comparable to its activity before 1980."

In Malone's view, those "moderately likely" to erupt in our lifetime are: Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak.

Rainier causes particular concern, since it is close to 2.5 million people in the Puget Sound region. While there are no signs of renewed volcanic activity beneath Rainier's icy cap, there is general agreement among scientists that it has not been studied as thoroughly as it should be, Malone says.

Rainier's last minor eruption likely occurred in the mid-19th century. "There probably has not been a major explosive eruption of Rainier in a few thousand years," Malone says. "Even minor activity there could trigger flows of mud and other debris that could quickly clog valleys, bridges, roads and anything else in its path."

Vistas is a quarterly column compiled by Columns Editor Tom Griffin that highlights recent research findings at the University of Washington.

Return to September 1995 Table of Contents.