New fears over HRT link to breast cancer as doctors halt another trial

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Doctors have halted another hormone replacement therapy study after they found that women involved in the research were facing an "unacceptably high risk" of breast cancer.

Doctors have halted another hormone replacement therapy study after they found that women involved in the research were facing an "unacceptably high risk" of breast cancer.

The trial into whether women who had been treated for breast cancer could safely be given HRT has been stopped for ethical reasons because scientists discovered that the menopause treatment was causing new tumours to appear in some patients.

Most women who develop breast cancer are over 50 and have already gone through the menopause. But about 2,000 women under 40 are diagnosed with the disease every year and treatment for it may trigger an early menopause.

Previously, some were offered the option of HRT, but scientists were worried that the tablets could raise the risk of the disease recurring.

Swedish researchers set up a trial to assess the effect of HRT on women with a previous history of the disease. The study was originally meant to include at least 1,300 women who would be monitored for five years.

But yesterday, it was announced in the medical journal The Lancet that the trial was to be stopped three years early because the results showed that HRT significantly increased the chances of the appearance of a new tumour. Of 174 former breast cancer sufferers assigned to HRT, 26 reported a recurrence or a new case of the cancer while seven women who received therapy other than HRT for menopausal symptoms developed the disease again.

Lars Holmberg, from University Hospital, Uppsala, said: "The trial was terminated because women with a history of breast cancer allocated HRT for menopausal symptoms experienced an unacceptably high risk of breast cancer."

Serious concerns about HRT were raised in 2002, when an American trial was abandoned early because of the risks involved. Later in the same year, the Medical Research Council halted a British HRT trial.

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