Report of menopause pill risks `misleading'

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The Independent Online
The Imperial Cancer Research Fund said yesterday that a newspaper report definitively linking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with breast cancer was "seriously misleading".

The report, in the Sunday Times, said that among some groups of women receiving HRT the risk of developing breast cancer was more than double that of non-users. Using information from the biggest ever study on hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer, which is due to be released in mid-October, it said that drafts of the study showed the overall risk of breast cancer to be 35 per cent higher if women took HRT, on average, for 11 years.

Final results from the four-year-project co-ordinated by Valerie Beral, director of the ICRF cancer epidemiology unit in Oxford, are due to be published in a leading medical journal.

But yesterday a spokesman for the fund said that the publication of preliminary findings in the report was likely to cause unnecessary fear among HRT users.

"We are in the process of preparing to publish the full results in the middle of October and the Sunday Times's report was not based on the full and final research paper," the spokesman said. "It is dangerous to go on information that isn't completely checked."

"The paper is going to be the most comprehensive review of existing research on HRT. We have 51 separate studies from 21 countries; 90 per cent of the worldwide evidence available."

The ICRF was unable to detail the specific reasons why the report was misleading, as the final results of the research paper are embargoed until later this month.

But a source involved in the study said it was "likely to confirm that there is no established link between HRT and breast cancer death rates".

"This is not the impression you would get from reading the article," the source said.

The study was designed to resolve the controversy over whether HRT causes breast cancer. Around 2 million British women who have undergone the menopause take the daily pill, which replaces the hormone oestrogen. It is said to reduce brittle bone and heart diseases, as well as staving off some of the physical effects of old age.