BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
HRT - How big is the risk?
A major US study into the long-term effects of hormone replacement therapy has been halted early because the risks of heart disease and breast cancer clearly outweighed the benefits. By the BBC's Science, Environment and Technology Correspondent, Christine McGourty.

What is HRT, are there different types?

Hormone Replacement Therapy consists of drugs - in the form of tablets, skin patches or creams - that increase levels of the sex hormone oestrogen. In women who have not had a hysterectomy, the common form of the drug is a combination of oestrogen and the hormone progestogen, which is added to reduce the risk of cancer of the uterus.

Why do women take it?

At the menopause, levels of the sex hormone oestrogen decline, causing symptoms such as hot flushes and contributing to the serious brittle bone disease osteoporosis. HRT can reverse this. Until now, it was also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease and it's even been said to improve memory.

How big is the risk?

The study showed that among those taking HRT, there was a 26 % increased risk of breast cancer, compared with those taking a dummy pill - and a 29 % increased risk of heart attacks and a 41% increased risk of strokes. By contrast, the risk of hip fractures and of colon cancer were both significantly reduced.

But the researchers point out that presenting the statistics this way can sound more alarming than it should. The findings mean that for over 10,000 women on HRT, you would expect seven more women to have heart attacks and eight more to suffer strokes and eight more to contract breast cancer. There would be six fewer colon cancers and five fewer hip fractures.

Should women be worried about the US study?

Women should be aware of the research but should not be alarmed by it. Though the US form is not available here, it is estimated that a very similar form of HRT is taken by about 300,000 UK women.

However, doctors have long been aware of an increased risk of breast cancer associated with HRT. And it is possible that, for any individual, the benefits of taking the drug will still outweigh any dangers.

But at America's National Institutes of Health, where the work was carried out, researchers say it will be necessary to reconsider the use of this combined oestrogen-progestogen HRT over the long-term.

See also:

10 Jul 02 | UK
10 Jul 02 | Health
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes