One of the world's largest clinical trials to test the long-term safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been stopped prematurely because the risks of taking the drugs significantly outweighed the benefits.

One of the world's largest clinical trials to test the long-term safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been stopped prematurely because the risks of taking the drugs significantly outweighed the benefits.

American doctors said yesterday that they halted the trial involving 16,608 postmenopausal women because those taking HRT had a 29 per cent increase in the risk of breast cancer and a 22 per cent increase in the risk of heart disease.

They said the absolute risks were still very small, with just eight more breast cancers expected in every 10,000 individuals on the treatment. But they judged the ill effects sufficient to stop the trial after 5.2 years, when it had been due to run for 8.5 years. The trial was part of a study called the Women's Health Initiative run by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which released the findings yesterday on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, Professor David Purdie, a specialist in HRT at Hull University, said American and British HRT preparations were different and the results should not stop women in Britain taking HRT.

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