Hormone Replacement Therapy Linked to Skin CancerFeb 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), including the drugs Premarin and Prempro, has long been linked to female cancers and fatal blood clots. Now a new study has concluded that women on HRT for the treatment of menopausal symptoms might be doubling their skin cancer risks, reports the Daily Mail,
The study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, found that women on HRT for over six months at a time are twice as likely to develop a malignant melanoma and, if taking the pill for six months, experienced a 28 percent greater chance of developing a cancerous mole, said the Daily Mail. The researchers looked at about 800 Dutch women who had been diagnosed with a melanoma between 1991 and 2004 and compared this group to a group of 4,000 women who were cancer-free.
The researchers believe the increased risk has something to do with how the drug oestrogen in HRT mimics melanocyte, or skin cell, growth, said the Daily Mail, which reported that the study was conducted at Leiden University in the Netherlands, the latest such study looking at HRT and related health risks. The Telegraph pointed out that HRT has been linked to skin melanoma in prior studies with mixed findings, but that the Leiden study—one of the largest looking at the association between oestrogen and skin cancer—revealed a decided increase in cancers with HRT use.
The Telegraph pointed out that cells in moles turn cancerous, dividing rapidly, and spreading throughout the body, resulting in high death rates because moles are very difficult to identify as being cancerous by sight, even by the most skilled of physicians. Shape or color changes or bleeding are important signs to watch for with moles.
In the United States, results of the massive Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study have revealed a variety of adverse effects associated with HRT, the most recent such finding having to do with how HRT shrinks the brain.
Earlier this year, two studies that reviewed the same group of women found that HRT does seem to shrink the brain. The findings did not link the shrinkage with early cerebrovascular disease, according to a prior HealthDay News report, which means that while HRT affects brain size it has not yet been found to contribute to so-called “silent strokes.”
Last year, Reuters reported that historically, doctors believed HRT could protect women from chronic diseases, especially heart disease. But use of HRT plunged after the 2002 Women's Health Initiative study found that HRT could raise the risk not only of breast and ovarian cancer, but also of strokes and other serious conditions. Research since also indicates that the incidence of breast cancer dropped by 8.6 percent between 2001 and 2004 in the United States, in conjunction with the decline in HRT use.
HealthDay News also noted in its earlier report, that in addition to an increased risk of stroke and cerebrovascular disease in post-menopausal women on HRT, the WHI Memory Study found that post-menopausal women on HRT suffered from “an increased risk of dementia and memory problems.”