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Combined HRT Doubles Breast Cancer Risk

Using combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve symptoms of the menopause can double a woman's normal risk of developing breast cancer, according to a new study.

Estrogen-only HRT has already been shown to raise the odds of breast cancer. New research by scientists at Britain's Cancer Research UK provides evidence that combined HRT -- estrogen and progestagen -- is even more dangerous.

In the study of more than one million women in Britain aged 50-64 who filled in a detailed questionnaire and were followed up for more than two years, combined HRT caused four times as many extra breast cancers as estrogen-only HRT.

The results, reported in The Lancet medical journal, showed that users of HRT also had a 22% higher risk of dying from breast cancer compared to women who had never taken it.

The researchers reported that the risk goes up with the duration of use and is apparent within 1-2 years. But once a woman stops taking HRT, the risks quickly recede.

Source: Lancet, August 9, 2003, 362(9382)