We have long noted that the groundbreaking Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial that began in 1991, reported in 2002 that the risks of combined estrogen/progestin Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) were greater than the medicationâ€™s benefits. Now, another study is reporting significant risks associated with HRT.
According to Reuters, women initiating HRT at the beginning of menopause experience an increased Breast Cancer risk when compared to women starting HRT later during menopause. The findings are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The study looked at over one million British women and revealed that the women who waited at least five years to begin HRT saw little or no increased Breast Cancer risk, said Reuters, versus those who started when they entered menopause, experiencing a 43 percent higher risk of developing the disease.
“In this large study, we found greater risks of Breast Cancer if hormonal therapy use began either before or soon after menopause than after a longer gap,” Dr. Valerie Beral of Britain’s Oxford University and colleagues wrote, quoted Reuters. “And this pattern of risk was seen across different types of hormonal therapy, among women who used hormonal therapy for either short or long durations, and also in lean and in overweight and obese women,” the team added.
The findings matched those from the WHI which revealed that women taking HRT at the start of menopause experienced a 41 percent increased risk for Breast Cancer compared to women who put off HRT, according to Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles BioMedical Research Institute and Garnet Anderson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, wrote Reuters. The two, in a commentary, noted that the reverse is true concerning heart disease said Reuters. Women initiating HRT earlier experience a lower risk for heart disease over women starting later, said Reuters.
Prior to 2002, doctors prescribed HRT to decrease heart disease risks and osteoporosis, which both increase significantly after menopause, said Reuters. HRT is also prescribed to help with some troublesome menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Following the announcement at the time of the WHI study, HRT prescriptions dropped significantly worldwide, which correlated to a drop in Breast Cancer. Researchers then revealed that healthy menopausal women on HRT were likelier to develop Breast Cancer. An array of effects has since been associated with HRT.
Reuters pointed out that among HRT drugs suffering plummeting sales, Wyeth’s (now owned by Pfizer) estrogen-progestin Prempro fell by 50 percent since 2001; in 2001, over 16 million U.S. women were on HRT, but by 2009 that figure dropped by 10 million.
Previously, we have written that women on HRT also exhibited increased risks for heart disease and stroke; female cancers and fatal blood clots; a potential doubling of skin cancer risks; shrinkage of the brain and an increased risk of stroke and cerebrovascular disease; as well as a higher risk of dementia and memory problems; and even kidney stones.