Menopause hormone therapy raises breast cancer risk

A posed photo of a patient undergoing a mammogram.
A posed photo of a patient undergoing a mammogram.PHOTO: ST FILE

A large-scale study recently published in the Lancet confirmed that hormone therapy to relieve menopause symptoms slightly increases the risk of breast cancer. Prior research had established this risk, but this new study is the first to show that the risk remains elevated even 10 years after treatment has stopped.

Use of menopause hormone therapy (MHT) for 10 years results in about twice the excess breast cancer risk compared to five years of use.

It is relevant to note that the risk was highlighted years ago in a study termed the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). Before that, MHT was used extensively and even had apparent associated benefits attributed to its use. WHI discovered the risk, and some apparent benefits were actually found to be risks instead.

For a while after the release of WHI, the use of MHT was scaled down, but after some time, it was promoted as relatively safe if used for a shorter period. This new study should convince doctors to take a serious view of the risks of using MHT for more than a year, and also to consider alternative treatment for women who have less menopausal problems that warrant MHT use.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)