Women who start hormone replacement therapy (HRT) soon after menopause do not show higher cancer incidence within 16 years, according to a Danish study published on Tuesday that fuels scientific discord over the treatment’s safety.
The new study was hailed by a menopause awareness group, but a researcher who led a wider probe into HRT said it was worryingly underpowered.
HRT has been shrouded in controversy since a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study in 2002 reported a higher risk of breast cancer for women who take it, a finding echoed by the Million Women Study (MWS) a year later.
“We found a significantly decreased risk of… death, heart failure or myocardial infarction (heart attack) when hormone replacement therapy was started early in postmenopause,” wrote the Danish team.
“(…) (T)his finding was not associated with an increased risk of cancer, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism.” The MWS stirred up a storm when it claimed HRT boosted cancer risk by between 30 and 100 percent, a finding criticized by other scientists who claimed the study method was flawed.
HRT uses the female hormones estrogen or progestogen, sometimes combined, to ease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, loss of sex drive and vaginal dryness. The new study looked at 1,006 recently postmenopausal women, of whom 502 were given HRT and 504 no treatment.
Apart from the HRT group being 5.7 months older, there were no other significant differences between the groups in things like weight, health or smoking habits.
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