Postmenopausal hormone use, screening, and breast cancer: Characterization and control of a bias

Marshall M. Joffe*, Celia Byrne, Graham A. Colditz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Previous investigators have suggested that screening-related biases may explain associations between postmenopausal hormone use and breast cancer. To investigate these biases, we studied postmenopausal women in the Nurses' Health Study from 1988 to 1994. Hormone use is associated with increased subsequent screening. Among women not screened in the previous 2 years, the probability difference, comparing current hormone users with others, for having mammography in the following 2 years is 19.5%; among women previously screened, the difference is 4.9%. These differences persist after control for other factors. If the increase in screening is causal, screening by mammogram could be intermediate in the causal pathway to breast cancer diagnosis. To deal with this problem, we restrict attention to a subset of the cohort in which the effect of postmenopausal hormone use on screening is small (women previously screened). In this subset, the rate ratio comparing breast cancer rates among current postmenopausal hormone users with others is 1.28. In a sensitivity analysis, the bias could not by itself plausibly account for the associations in our data. Our data provide evidence of an association between post=menopausal hormone use and breast cancer that is not solely the product of a detection bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Bias
  • Breast neoplasms
  • Causality
  • Epidemiologic methods
  • Mammography
  • Postmenopausal hormone replacement


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