The Use of Sex Hormones in Cancer

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FOR more than a century it has been known that the only hope for cancer depends on the complete destruction or removal of the tumor cells. Consequently, when metastases have occurred cure is difficult, if not impossible, unless some method such as chemotherapy can be adapted to the task. Chemotherapy for cancer is not new; chemical treatment was employed in many forms even before the advent of modern surgery. Recently many substances have been tried experimentally for their effects upon the development of malignant tissues.1 It seems just to say, however, that sex hormones have shown more promise than any other form of chemotherapy.

Hormonal treatment of cancer is not without grave dangers, especially if it is used in improperly selected cases. The treatment is palliative, not curative. In carefully selected cases, however, it may relieve pain, improve health, and prolong life in some patients. The mode of action of the hormones under consideration is incompletely understood, and the apparent inconsistency of results is totally unexplained. Even though cures are not produced a study of the relationship of hormones to cancer offers hope of explaining the previously mysterious natural history of the disease.

For the following statements I have drawn heavily upon the recent literature especially on the work of such investigators as Adair,2 Farrow,3 Nathanson,4 Huggins,5 and Vest6 in this country, Haddow,7 Fergusson,8 and others in England.

Hormones and the Breast

The breast from birth to old age is constantly subject to endocrine factors of control. From experimental evidence. . .



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