New research findings show that women who use hormone therapy after menopause may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The new study found that when women used hormone replacement therapy for less than five years after menopause, the risk of ovarian cancer increased by about 40 percent, WebMD reports. Study researcher Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford said the increased risk was statistically significant but emphasized that the risk is a small one. The study found that for women who take hormone therapy for five years from around age 50, one extra ovarian cancer diagnosis would be expected for every 1,000 users and one extra ovarian cancer death for every 1,700 users.
The researchers pooled the results of 52 studies with a total of more than 12,000 women with ovarian cancer. About half of them used hormone replacement therapy, WebMD reports. Though the study was not designed to definitively show a cause-and-effect relationship between hormone replacement therapy and ovarian cancer, Peto and his colleagues contend that hormone therapy likely did contribute to the ovarian cancers. The study was published in the Feb. 13 online edition of The Lancet.
Hormone replacement therapy is prescribed to help ease the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats. Hormone prescriptions rose dramatically in the 1990s. The Women’s Health Initiative study was halted in 2002 because researchers found increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and blood clots in hormone therapy users. Following these findings, the use hormone replacement plummeted, according to WebMD. Doctors now advise that if a woman uses hormone replacement therapy, she does so for the shortest time possible to relieve symptoms.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 21,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and the society estimates that about 14,000 women will die of the disease.