HRT triples breast cancer risk

HRT Users Three Times More Likely To Develop Breast Cancer

Women who use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) are around three times more likely to develop breast cancer, according to the findings of a new study. This major study is the biggest of its kind and was launched as scientists and medical researchers believed that previous investigations into the links between HRT and breast cancer had been underestimated by up to 60%.


The Study

The research was lead by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and at Breast Cancer Now. More than 100,000 women over the age of 40 were studied over a period of six years for the purposes of this in-depth study.

The results showed that women who had been receiving HRT in the form of combined progesterone and oestrogen pills for five years or more were 2.7 times more likely to contract breast cancer. The risk for women who had been taking the medication for 15 years was found to be 3.3 times above average.

Current figures suggest that 14 out of every 1000 women between the ages of 50 and 60 are expected to develop breast cancer; however, the findings of this study show that that number rises to 34 in 1000 when it comes to women who are taking the combined HRT pill.


What is HRT?

When many women go through the menopause, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in their bodies drop, leading to the uncomfortable symptoms we commonly associate with the menopause, such as headaches, hot flushes, insomnia, depression and mood swings.

HRT is prescribed to women going through these symptoms in order to top up their levels of these two essential hormones. There are currently more than 50 different forms of administering HRT, which can be taken orally, via a patch on the skin, as an implant or as a vaginal pessary.

More women than ever before are currently undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy since the National Institute of Heath Care Excellence (NICE) issued guidelines in 2015 to encourage more GPs to prescribe the treatment.


Breast Cancer

According to NHS figures, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. The UK has the sixth highest incidence rate of breast cancer in the whole of Europe.

Signs and symptoms of the condition include a change in size or shape of the breasts, discharge from nipples, dimpled skin on the breast, rash around the areola or a lump or other swelling in the breast or underarm.


What to Do

Early detection is one of the most important elements of successfully combating breast cancer. The earlier the illness is diagnosed, the more likely it is that it will be treated before spreading to other parts of the body. This is why it is essential to speak to your GP about any worries you may have.

If you experience any of the signs and symptoms listed above or any other changes which are causing you concern, it is essential that you speak to your doctor as soon as possible. Most signs will eventually be shown to be benign and your doctor may feel that there is no need for further investigation. However, getting checked out is always encouraged as the best course of action.


Breast Screening

Breast screening is a method of seeking out signs of cancer before any symptoms have started to materialise. This works in the form of a mammogram x-ray which can detect even the smallest cancer cells. Breast cancer screening is one of the most successful methods of early cancer detection and treatment.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital holds breast screening services which x-ray women between the ages of 50 and 70 once every three years. This is a part of the UK breast screening programme which was first launched in June 2015.

Women aged 50 to 70 can also arrange for a breast screening appointment at the East Berkshire Breast Diagnostic Centre in Windsor. This centre does not accept walk-ins; all appointments must be pre-booked through a GP.