HRT And Cancer Risk

Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment used to reduce and alleviate symptoms of menopause; it involves replacing hormones, which are lost before and during menopause. While there are many benefits of HRT, there are also risks and one of the major concerns women have about HRT is an increased risk of developing certain forms of cancer. Exposure to oestrogen is known to increase the risk of some forms of cancer and increasing levels of oestrogen by using HRT or the contraceptive pill, for example, may further increase this risk.

HRT and breast cancer

Both combined and oestrogen-only HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer. In a study of 1 million women conducted by Cancer Research UK, the risk of developing breast cancer was found to be 50 per cent higher in women who have used HRT than those who have not; in cases of long-term HRT use (over 10 years), the risk was even greater. After stopping HRT, breast cancer risk starts to fall and after 5 years, the risk should be the same as somebody who hasn't used HRT.

Cancer of the womb

The risk of womb cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is higher in women who use oestrogen-only HRT and this is why combined HRT is often recommended; it is thought that the progestogen component helps to counteract the oestrogen, reducing the risk of womb cancer.

Ovarian cancer

Research published in 2015 and cited by Cancer Research UK found that using both oestrogen-only and combined HRT increases the risk of ovarian cancer; the elevated risk equates to 1 extra case of ovarian cancer for every 1,000 women who use HRT. Research shows that risk can be increased even when a woman uses HRT for less than 5 years.

Bowel cancer

There is evidence to suggest that HRT may reduce the risk of bowel cancer; however, this is limited and further research is required.

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