Hormone replacement therapy can triple the risk of breast cancer, the biggest ever study has found, following more than a decade of controversy.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps minimise the more troublesome symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, disrupted sleep, migraines, mood changes and depression. That is why the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), changed guidance to encourage more doctors to prescribe HRT claiming too many menopausal women had been left suffering in silence.

But doctors were reluctant to prescribe it after a study in 2002 suggested it could raise the risk of cancer, a claim later widely disputed. However, new findings by the Institute of Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Now suggest that these concerns were justified.

In the most comprehensive study to date, scientists have confirmed that taking combined HRT can increase your chance of developing breast cancer. The study followed 100,000 women over 40 years and found those who took HRT were 2.7 times more likely to develop cancer compared to women who took nothing, or only the oestrogen pill.

The risk rose to 3.3 times for women who took the combined HRT for 15 years or more, The Telegraph reported. However, once women stopped taking HRT their risk of cancer returned to normal.

Researchers behind the study, stated: “Our findings provide further information to allow women to make informed decisions about the potential risks and benefits of HRT use.”

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “On balance, some women will feel HRT to be a necessity. But in order to minimise the risk of breast cancer during treatment, it is recommended that the lowest effective dose is used for the shortest possible time.


Interested in more cancer news?