HRT 'that protects against breast cancer' can cut disease rate by nearly a quarter
HRT: Women taking the oestrogen-only form of the treatment were 23 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer
Women taking a specific form of HRT may be protected against breast cancer, researchers say.
They found that oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy cuts rates of the disease by nearly a quarter.
The findings add to growing evidence that the drug is safe despite a U.S. study in 2002 that linked it to breast cancer, heart disease and other ills.
In the three years after the scare, the number of UK women taking HRT to help them through the menopause halved to one million.
Around a quarter of the 2.5million women now taking it are thought to be on the oestrogen-only form. Commonly given to those who have undergone hysterectomies, it prevents symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle studied 7,645 menopausal women over six years.
Half had been taking oestrogen-only HRT tablets, the other half had been given dummy pills.
They found that those on oestrogen-only HRT were 23 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer.
And if they did develop the illness they were 63 per cent less likely to die than the other women.
The treatment seemed to deter the growth of tumours but appeared not to protect women who either had a family history of breast cancer or had suffered benign breast disease.
Garnet Anderson, author of the study, which is published today in The Lancet, warned that although the drug had benefits, it also entailed risks.
Limits: Although the treatment seemed to deter the growth of tumours it did not appear to protect women who either had a family history of breast cancer
It is known to increase the likelihood of blood clots and strokes – as with the combined form of HRT.
Dr Anderson added: ‘These latest results should provide reassurance about breast safety of oestrogen use for durations of about five years for women with a hysterectomy seeking relief from post-menopausal symptoms.’
Rachel Greig, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘This is a strong study which may provide reassurance to women of the effects of oestrogen-only HRT, a certain type of HRT that is used to treat menopausal symptoms in women who have had a hysterectomy.
‘However, it’s important to remember there are different types of HRT and other large studies have shown these can increase the risk of breast cancer as well as other health problems.
‘In the meantime we advise women to speak to their GP if they have questions about treatments for the menopause.’