Hormonal therapy suitable for some

A risk factor for breast cancer is prolonged exposure of the breasts to hormonal stimulation over many years. But doctors strongly recommend that women who hit menopause prematurely receive hormonal therapy till the average age when women reach menop
A risk factor for breast cancer is prolonged exposure of the breasts to hormonal stimulation over many years. But doctors strongly recommend that women who hit menopause prematurely receive hormonal therapy till the average age when women reach menopause.ST FILE PHOTO

Many women are worried about taking hormones, thinking they cause breast cancer, said Dr Chua Yang, president of the Asia Pacific Menopause Federation.

A risk factor for breast cancer is prolonged exposure of the breasts to hormonal stimulation over many years. "So, if a girl starts menstruation (menarche) exceptionally early or end menstruation (menopause) particularly late in life, she would already have a slightly higher risk of getting breast cancer," said Dr Chua.

Therefore, if a woman hits menopause at the average age of 50 but chooses to take hormones for another 10 years, she would also increase her risk of getting breast cancer.

However, if a woman hits menopause prematurely at 40 and takes hormones for 10 years, she would not have increased her risk beyond the norm, said Dr Chua. "Her risk remains the same as the women who reach menopause naturally at 50."

Doctors worldwide strongly recommend that women who hit menopause prematurely or have premature ovarian failure receive hormonal therapy until the average age when women reach menopause, said Dr Chua.

Joyce Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2016, with the headline 'Hormonal therapy suitable for some'. Print Edition | Subscribe