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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
HRT: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
American research has suggested that women who take hormone replacement therapy may be at increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The study found that women who took a combination of equine hormones, oestrogen and progestin were 26% more likely to develop breast cancer.

It also found the hormones increased the risks of heart attacks by 29%, strokes by 41% and doubled the risk of blood clots.

But experts in both the UK and the US say the risks of cancer or heart disease remain small and women should consult their doctors before stopping taking HRT.

Is HRT a safe option for menopausal women? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Would you continue with the therapy?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

You owe it to yourselves to do some research

Kath, Bristol, England
I would plead with all menopausal women - please, please don't take HRT. There are plenty of safe, effective, natural treatments that could relieve your symptoms - such as wild yam, natural progesterone and certain nutritional supplements - that offer greater benefits than HRT and do not have the same terrible risks. HRT is a dangerous, unnecessary treatment - you owe it to yourselves to do some research and find the right alternatives for you.
Kath, Bristol, England

I have been on HRT for the last seven years. Initially I was given one which was based on equine hormones - but thanks to my own search for information and my GP's within a year a change was made to one which was did not involve any pregnant horses, thank goodness.
Brenda, Yorkshire, UK

The bottom line is that the body turns off hormone production for a reason. Obviously, it no longer needs nor requires hormones, so why replace them artificially? Surely we can suffer through the temporary effects of menopause without HRT - women have done it for centuries. A balanced diet, moderate exercise and a positive mental attitude is the best prescription for good health. Ask any doctor.
Linda, USA

Oh dear, I'm one of those male doctors who is bent on poisoning patients with HRT. I must have changed because a few years ago I was one of those male GPs who refused to push my patients into having HRT. In fact, as a GP in the NHS, I have nothing to gain from putting women on HRT. If anything it increases my workload as patients on the medication need regular follow-up. I am careful with all patients to go through the alternatives to HRT (including natural remedies or nothing!) and I normally send women away to think things through before making the decision.
Julian Spinks, UK

I am certainly not put off

Alison Smith, Wiltshire
I had my regular HRT review this morning and, having made an informed choice, I am certainly not put off by the latest scare stories. The possibility of an increased risk of certain conditions was highlighted at the outset by my doctor, and regular monitoring ensures that potential problems are identified at an early stage. Thanks to HRT, I have been able to enjoy, rather than simply endure, the past three years of my life.
Alison Smith, Wiltshire

I wish doctors would learn more about nutrition to help prevent disease and get out of the habit of automatically prescribing medication for everything. The best thing I ever did was to live in Hong Kong for 10 years. There, I lived on a mainly Chinese diet that included a lot of fresh vegetables and lots of soybean curd. I never experienced any kind of menopausal symptoms: no hot flushes, no mood swings, nothing. Even though I fully expected to go through the same hell that my mother did and I do not have osteoporosis like she does either. Thank God for the humble soybean, I say, it certainly beats HRT any day of the week.
Jacqui Miller, Canada

Women don't contract breast cancer, they develop it. It has been widely known that HRT will increase your risk of breast cancer, what is disturbing about this research is that it was always believe that it helped prevent heart disease, stroke and so on. We now discover it doesn't help prevent, instead you are slight more likely to develop one of these conditions. I don't think women should necessarily stop HRT. They have assess the risks and benefits to them individually and discuss their options with their physician.
Emma, US/UK

I totally fail to understand these wimpish women who rush for the nearest pill to delay the onset of a natural process. A good healthy diet rich in calcium will avoid the onset of osteoporosis. I have absolutely no problem with being a little warm once in a while. I refused the therapy when offered it by my GP. I am delighted that I did. I had heard only bad things about it and this now seems borne out by the evidence. The only people benefiting from HRT are the drug companies.
Jay, UK

HRT should be stopped

David Howe, UK
HRT should be stopped - the NHS foots the bill for filling women up with unnatural doses of hormones all their lives to stop them becoming pregnant, then foots the bill for stopping then feeling depressed for a bit when that risk has passed and then has to foot the bill for the side-effects of that treatment as well! Surely by banning HRT all that NHS money could be spent doing decent things like employing decent security at hospitals. I'm sure women being safe in hospitals is more important than women not feeling a bit of discomfort.
David Howe, UK

I have been on HRT therapy for close to 20 years. I always thought the benefits outweighed the risks. But after this last study, one begins to question the options. Having had colon rectal cancer two years ago, what do I decide, to continue or stop? Even doctors are undecided. We should put our trust in God, and not human beings.
Joan Jones, Richmond VA. USA

Isn't it a bit strange that a research project was stopped because it was producing results that the sponsors didn't like? Given the appalling cruelty involved in harvesting equine hormones, I hope lots of UK users are sufficiently worried by the report to go their doctors and ask for the alternatives to Premarin and other similar products.
Kathy, UK

According to my doctor, HRT helps prevent strokes and heart attacks

Betty Freeman, England
I am 75 years of age and have been on HRT for 12 years. I am fit and energetic, I have married within the last year (I was a widow) and I understand that HRT helps prevent strokes and heart attacks - according to my doctor.
Betty Freeman, England

I'm sorry, but this is just another example of the media misleading people with statistics. 26% sounds like a lot. What it actually means is that instead of 32 women in 10,000 contracting breast cancer, 40 in 10,000 will - assuming that the sample used was large enough to be statistically significant.
Phil, UK

This isn't the first report on the side effects of HRT and in fact the increased risks of breast cancer are one of the side effects stated on the product information sheet. It is okay for the (mainly male) doctors to tell women not to panic but how would they feel if they discovered that a treatment they had been taking had increased their chances of contracting a number of fatal diseases? I am 52 and have never taken HRT but feel dreadfully sorry for the woman who have and woken up to this news today.
Gill, UK

More research should be carried out before doctors prescribe any medication that threatens the health of their patients

Usha, Canada
I cannot believe the results of this study. I have to question why women were put on HRT in the first place? Doctors were all praise for this treatment. I was put on HRT eight years ago for osteoporosis. Although I have some problems with fibroids, whether there is any connection with HRT I have no clue. I am terribly worried. More research should be carried out before doctors prescribe any medication that threatens the health of their patients.
Usha, Canada

I have been on HRT from the age of 34. I am now 49 and I would not stop taking it because of one report on one type of HRT treatment. The benefits I have to my mental and physical wellbeing far outweigh any potential risk.
Anne Scott, Scotland

I heard on the news this morning that women in the UK had no chance of being prescribed HRT treatment based on equine products. Wrong my wife was and contracted breast cancer. When we suspected the tie with HRT treatment at the time we were told that there was no link at all.
Jack, Scotland

Isn't it obvious by now that the more we stupid humans try to play God the more problems we create? People are bewildered in this day and age, thinking that so-called scientific advancement is an advancement of human civilisation.
Richard, UK

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10 Jul 02 | Health
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