(NaturalNews) Women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may increase not just their risk of breast cancer but also of ovarian cancer, even when they remain on the drugs fewer than four years, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In 2002, the landmark Women's Health Initiative study was prematurely halted when researchers discovered that HRT drastically increased patients' risk of breast cancer, to an extent that continuing the experiment was no longer ethical. Since then, HRT has fallen out of favor as a way to avoid the symptoms of menopause, and breast cancer rates have dropped correspondingly.
Prior research also showed that long-term use of HRT might increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer, but suggested that the risk only developed after long-term use. In the current study, researchers examined the medical records of nearly all Danish women between the ages of 50 and 79, or 909,946, between the years of 1995 and 2005. They found that current users of HRT had a 38 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who had never used HRT, and a 44 percent higher risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer, the most common form of the disease. This would translate into one extra case of ovarian cancer for every 8,300 women taking HRT.
HRT was responsible for one in 20 ovarian cancer cases in Denmark during the study period, the researchers said.
The new study does not change the recommendations for HRT, the researchers noted.
"The bottom line is, we're already telling women, 'Don't use it,' " said Debbie Saslow of the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the study. "If you need to use it, use it for the lowest dose and the shortest amount of time, but try not to use it."
Many women seeking to avoid the symptoms of menopause but frightened of HRT are now turning to products marketed as "bio-identical hormones," derived from plant ingredients instead of from animal hormones. Saslow warned that there is no evidence that these therapies are any safer than conventional HRT, however.