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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 00:37 GMT 01:37 UK
HRT 'cuts cancer risk'
Breast scan
Breast cancer has been linked to the female sex hormone oestrogen
Women who have been treated for breast cancer may reduce the risk of a recurrence of the disease by undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT), research suggests.

The study found that HRT cuts the risk of developing new breast tumours by half and the risk of dying from the disease by a third.


There are a lot of unhappy women out there who desperately want to take HRT but have been denied the chance by their surgeons

Dr Anne Szarewski, Imperial Cancer Research Fund
Some doctors have been reluctant to give HRT to women who have had breast cancer.

They fear that artificially boosting levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen may actually increase the risk of developing the disease.

However, the new study suggests that the opposite may be true.

HRT is used to relieve post-menopausal symptoms, such as flushing or hot flashes, which can be serious problem with some women.

Experts have warned that the research is not conclusive.

Uncompleted studies

Researchers at the University of Washington and the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound analysed data from a group of 2,755 women who had been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

Within this group were 174 women who become HRT users after their cancer treatment.

These women were much less likely to suffer a recurrence of the disease, or to die from it.

However, the study found some data that suggested HRT might increase the risk of cancer in the previously unaffected breast.

The researchers stressed that their findings emphasised the need for caution in assessing the overall impact of HRT after breast cancer.

Unexpected

Dr Anne Szarewski, a senior clinical research fellow at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said the finding of the research was unexpected.

She told BBC News Online: "In theory one would expect the opposite effect.

"At the very least this study may help to allay people's fears about giving women HRT after they have had breast cancer.

"There are a lot of unhappy women out there who desperately want to take HRT but have been denied the chance by their surgeons."

The research is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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