Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Also, it is a cancer that, after treatment, can recur more often, even after many years of remission. In the light of this, it is important to consider any factor that increases the risk.
A meta-analysis published in the medical journal The Lancet last August has added to the body of evidence which highlights the risk of breast cancer with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
The meta-analysis points to an excess breast cancer risk associated with the use of all types of HRT, except vaginal oestrogens.
It also found that the excess risk of breast cancer with systemic HRT persisted after stopping HRT for more than 10 years, when compared with newer users.
The potential harm may outweigh the potential benefits for women who are using HRTs for the long-term prevention of osteoporosis. There are other non-HRT therapies for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.
Also, HRT does not protect post-menopausal women against cardiovascular events and heart disease, and hence should not be used for this purpose.
After the publication of studies highlighting the risk in 2002 and 2003, the use of HRT declined for a while.
However, there seems to be a resurgence in the use of HRT, with doctors dismissing the risk as minimal and communicating that HRT use for a short time is relatively safe.
In the light of the Lancet publication, there needs to be an evaluation of such a stance, especially as breast cancer is not a cancer to be taken lightly.
Quek Koh Choon