Women doctors claim HRT can make you ill

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The Independent Online
A backlash is beginning against hormone replacement therapy. Leading women doctors are warning of increased health dangers from HRT, which is now being used by an estimated two million women in Britain.

The doctors, including senior consultants, warn of links between HRT and increased risks of breast cancer, suicide, mood changes, and addiction.

"Suicide has been found to occur in more women taking HRT that expected," two of the consultants say in a letter in this week's British Medical Journal.

"Women ... are subjected to considerable pressure to use HRT and the risk of serious side-effects may be overlooked," say Dr Elizabeth Price, consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Dr Helen Kaye Little, consultant at the Bronglais Hospital, in their letter.

They say there is a 50 per cent increase in the risk of breast cancer linked with the use of HRT over five years. "Given the already high and rising incidence of this disease in western populations, this is more frightening to most women that heart disease or osteoporosis, for which HRT is claimed to be beneficial," they say.

The doctors, who say that a new organisation Doctors Against Abuse from Steroid Sex Hormones, has been set up to give advice to women, add: "The menopause is a normal, physiological state, not a disease. Drug treatment should not be given to the general population."

HRT, which consists of low doses of oestrogen to replace the body's own oestrogens, which stop being produced in the menopause, has been increasingly used by women over the last decade.

Wyeth, the world's largest producer of HRT, says it can reduce the risk of fractures in women likely to develop osteoporosis and may reduce the chance of heart disease too. New research may also link HRT usage with reduced risks of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr Val Godfree, gynaecologist and deputy director of the Amarant Trust, which supports research work at King's College Hospital's menopause clinic, said: "The idea that women are being pressured is wrong. Up to five years the evidence is quite clear that there is no increase in risk of breast cancer.

"Beyond five years the literature is inconsistent.

"Because HRT is often lumped together in people's minds as oestrogen and the contraceptive pill, we are always fighting a battle against this idea that oestrogen is poisonous. Something that is present in a woman's body since late childhood through to the change of life cannot become poisonous when you take it for that little bit longer.

"HRT is simply replacing a substance that was made by the woman own ovaries until menopause."