Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, have today suggested that hormone replacement therapy doesn’t increase risk of death by cancer, or any other cause, following the publication of results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) in JAMA.
Researchers compared the causes of death of over 25,000 women – those who had taken hormone replacement therapy (HRT), versus those who had taken a placebo medication. The scientists aimed to uncover whether HRT resulted in more deaths – and in particular, what those deaths were attributed to – over an 18-year period.
This study reported no overall increase in cancer-related mortality in the groups taking HRT when compared to the placebo group. However, major studies have shown the use of HRT to be linked to increased incidence of breast cancer and stroke, depending on the type of hormone therapy.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“This study suggests that HRT may not increase a woman's overall risk of death – but further investigation of its long-term health effects is needed.
“A breast cancer diagnosis can be absolutely devastating for women and their families, and major studies have shown that HRT use slightly increases their risk of the disease.
“Crucially, whether to use HRT is an entirely personal choice, which is why it’s so important that women fully understand the risks and benefits and discuss them with their GP to help make the decision that's right for them.
“On balance, some women will feel HRT to be a necessity. But in order to minimise the risk of breast cancer during treatment, it is recommended that the lowest effective dose is used for the shortest possible time."
Download our factsheet: HRT and breast cancer risk [PDF]