A new study of 27,000 women has found that taking hormonal replacement therapies (HRT) to combat the symptoms of menopause does not result in an increased risk of breast cancer.

Many women have been put off taking HRT by previous research released 15 years ago, which suggested that breast cancer was more common in women who took HRT than those who didn’t. But the new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, refutes that research.

Scientists followed 27,000 women over 18 years, gathering data about their lifestyles and health, and found that the rates of death from breast cancer, heart disease and all other causes were similar in women who did and didn’t take HRT for menopause.

The new breast cancer risk findings are limited to oestrogen-only courses of HRT – with the combined oestrogen/progesterone treatments still carrying a slightly increased risk.

However, for the majority of women going through menopause, the slightly increased risk is outweighed by the benefits of HRT, which can help to improve hot flushes, low libido, joint pain, anxiety and depression, as well as protecting against  osteoporosis and heart disease.

Other risk factors such as being overweight,  drinking alcohol or not exercising carry a far higher risk than HRT. Menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson explained to netdoctor.co.uk:

“I say to patients even if there’s a risk, even if you take it for more than 15 years that risk is still less than having a couple of glasses of wine a night. You’re far more likely to die in car crash than you are to die from breast cancer after taking HRT. And you go in your car every day.”

When it comes to cancer prevention and avoidance of risk, it often comes down to a personal decision, weighing up risks against benefits. But doctors and healthcare specialists are hopeful that the latest finding will enable women to make more informed decisions when considering their health during menopause.

Interested in more cancer news?