Prescribing Advice for GPs

An NHS Prescribing Advisers' Blog

Declining HRT use linked to reduction in breast cancer

The European Journal of Cancer has published the results of a retrospective observational study that aimed to examine the association between declining use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer rates in post-menopausal women in the UK.

The study collected data from the General Practice Research Database and analysed HRT usage levels and the incidence of breast cancer. The researchers found that HRT usage halved (from 40% to 20%) between 2000 and 2006 in women aged 50-54 years old. There was also a decrease in usage for women 55-59 (from 35% to 15%).

The researchers also found that the incidence of breast cancer has been dropping by 0.8% per year since 1999 in the 50-59 age group. They conclude that, "it seems probable that these two events are causally related".

Cancer Research UK has issued a press release discussing these results. They take a slightly more reserved stance on these results but note that "the parallel is striking". They also reaffirm the advice that, "women should only take HRT for medical reasons and for as short a time as possible".

Action: HRT is still useful for alleviating vasomotor symptoms and vaginal atrophy associated with the menopause. Clinicians should ensure that patients are aware of the risks of treatment and that HRT is stopped at the earliest opportunity.

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