A recent study found that the rate of the most common form of breast cancer dropped by 15% between August 2002 and December 2003—possibly because millions of women halted hormone treatment after a 2002 study showed that it increased breast cancer risk slightly.

How it helps: Hormone therapy can improve quality of life if frequent hot flashes or night sweats make a woman unable to go about her daily activities or get a good night's sleep.

To minimize risk: Take the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time necessary. Women who have been on hormone therapy for several years should ask their physicians about weaning themselves off the drugs. Women just starting out should see whether they can get by on half the standard dose.

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