LIFESTYLE
19/10/2015 07:59 BST | Updated 19/10/2015 08:59 BST

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Benefits 'Outweigh Risks' In Menopausal Women, Study Claims

A new study has claimed that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for menopause does not put women's health at risk, despite previous claims to the contrary.

HRT is used to help women going through the menopause combat symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings and depression. It helps by replacing oestrogen which has been reduced in the body.

It is estimated that nearly one million women avoided HRT in the past because previous studies claimed it could increase breast cancer risk.

However scientists from New York University are now claiming it doesn't affect a woman's health, and they hope to educate women about the benefits of this type of treatment.

hrt

The relatively small study analysed women who had been taking HRT for an average of 14 years.

The 80 women had full-body scans carried out yearly, for a total of 10 years. They were then compared with 56 women who had not had HRT.

Researchers found that those who had taken HRT for up to 25 years were no more likely to develop breast cancer, heart disease or diabetes than any those who did not have the treatment.

Dr Lila Nachtigall, lead author of the study, said: "We found women taking HRT over a long period of time to be in very good health.

"It’s now clear that women on HRT over many years can enjoy benefits. The risks of HRT have definitely been overstated. The benefits outweigh the risks."

The findings are set to be presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Baltimore.

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In 2003, a study of more than one million women claimed HRT increased the incidence of breast cancer. Since the research was published, many women have been put off it.

But Dr Helen Webberley, the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, says women shouldn't be afraid.

"HRT is positively recommended for anyone who is under 50 and who has gone through the menopause either naturally or because of surgery," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

"After the age of 50, however, it is left to the woman's discretion and this is influenced massively by that woman's GP.

"Many women and doctors have been scared off HRT, although it is known to be very safe and effective."

Dr Webberley says symptoms of the menopause can affect "all aspects of a woman's life" and advises women who are struggling to opt for HRT.

"For those who are suffering, HRT can be life changing," she explains. "As an online doctor, I see many women coming for advice on HRT because their GP has either refused to allow them to have it, or taken them off it even though they wanted to continue.

"I am delighted that this new research may give women and their doctors back the confidence to use HRT."

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is set to publish new advice surrounding HRT over the coming months.

NICE's draft menopause guidelines, state: "The information and support offered to women during and after the menopause is thought to be variable and, for many, inadequate."

Its authors hope to reassure women and health professionals that "HRT does not affect the risk of dying from breast cancer".

"HRT with oestrogen alone is associated with little or no increase in the risk of breast cancer, but HRT with oestrogen and progestogen can be associated with an increase in the risk of breast cancer," they write.

"Women with a family history of breast cancer who are considering taking, or already taking, HRT should be informed of the increase in breast cancer risk with type and duration of HRT.

"HRT usage in a woman at familial risk should be restricted to as short a duration and as low a dose as possible. Oestrogen-only HRT should be prescribed where possible."

The draft guidelines also point out that HRT "does not increase cardiovascular disease risk when started in women aged under 60 years" and "does not affect the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease".