Review of HRT studies confirms health dangers

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Hormone replacement therapy is not a risk-free treatment for menopausal symptoms, a large-scale review of its safety has concluded.

Hormone replacement therapy is not a risk-free treatment for menopausal symptoms, a large-scale review of its safety has concluded.

Women using the treatment long term are more likely to contract a life-threatening disease than be protected against one, a study of 20,000 postmenopausal women who had taken HRT for about five years shows.

British scientists reviewed seven life-threatening conditions linked with HRT after an American trial in July showed that it increased the risk of breast cancer by 26 per cent and the risk of heart disease by 29 per cent.

Although the risk of breast cancer with HRT has been known in the last couple of years, the surprise from the American trial was the increased risk of heart disease. HRT had been thought to protect against it.

The American trial was stopped early because of the findings, but in Britain specialists urged women not to panic and to await further research. The latest finding, based on a review of four trials including the US study and published in The Lancet, confirms the American finding that HRT is more risky than thought. It shows that there is a significant increase in the risks of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots on the lung in long-term HRT users, but a significant reduction in the risk of bowel cancer and hip fractures.

Professor Valerie Beral, of Cancer Research UK's Epidemiology Unit at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, who led the review, said: "Each woman may understandably give different weight to the importance of each condition, as well as to the relief of meno-pausal symptoms with HRT. The issues are different for every woman."

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