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.