HRT cancer risk in over 65s

by BEEZY MARSH, Daily Mail

Women taking HRT to ease the misery of the menopause could double their risk of breast cancer, scientists have warned.

Those most under threat are women over 65 who have hormone replacement therapy for five years or more, they said.

The alarming verdict indicates that the risk of breast cancer for older women from HRT is around four times as great as previously feared.

The study also suggests the longer a woman stays on the treatment, the greater the risk.

Researchers are also warning that taking HRT may lead to more aggressive forms of the disease and women on HRT are more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Meanwhile, other specialists suggest that the treatment may even decrease the ability of breast cancer to be detected by mammograms.

The findings from two studies in the U.S. are certain to add to concerns about the effects of HRT, which is taken by around 2.5 million British women.

The doubling of the risk of breast cancer was uncovered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Washington in research covering more than 2,000 women aged 65 to 79.

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Li said: 'We found longterm use of combined HRT [containing both oestrogen and progestin] not only doubles the cancer risk, but the magnitude of that risk increases with duration of use.'

Women taking oestrogen-only HRT had no increased risk. In the second study at Harbor-UCLA Research and Education Institute in California, it was found that women on combined HRT suffered larger invasive tumours which were spotted at a more advanced stage.

Scientists compared data from 16,608 women, half who were on HRT and half on a dummy pill. In the HRT group, 245 cases were found while the placebo group had 185.

Researchers wrote: 'These results suggest invasive breast cancers developing in women receiving oestrogen plus progestin therapy may have an unfavourable prognosis.'

Dr Peter H Gann and Dr Monica Morrow, of the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, raised the prospect that HRT may affect doctors' ability to diagnose the disease.

'The ability of combined HRT to decrease mammographic sensitivity creates an almost unique situation in which an agent increases the risk of developing a disease while simultaneously delaying its detection,' they warned.

Last night, Lesley Walker, head of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said research was needed to see if the studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association were mirrored in Britain.

'Some women only take HRT for a while but others, such as those with osteoporosis, are on it long-term and they will have to consider if the benefits outweigh the risks,' she added.

Most British women taking HRT are on the combined dose. Those who have had a hysterectomy may take only oestrogen.

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