Skip to content

Menopause Health Center

Font Size

HRT Raises Risk of Breast Cancer Death

Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy May Be more Deadly for Some


"Since our results show a substantially greater increase in breast cancer with combined HRT, women need to weigh the increased risk of breast cancer caused by the addition of progestin against the lowered risk of uterine cancer," says Beral. "Comparing the risks is by no means simple, and women may well want to discuss options with their doctor."

In an editorial the accompanies the study, Chris van Wheel and colleagues from the University of Nijmegen, Netherlands, say these findings are in line with two recent studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association that found a higher risk of advanced or invasive breast cancers in combination HRT users.

"The problem is in those women who are already, often for a long time, taking HRT -- estimated at between 20% and 50% of all women 45-70 years of age in the western population," they write. "This group should discontinue HRT use as soon as possible.

"Discontinuing HRT should be suggested in as supportive a way as possible, because no one will benefit from panic or over-reaction: general practitioners need to use the opportunities arising from their regular contacts with patients taking HRT to discuss treatment-related risks, to give advice about stopping, and to offer alternative support."

Sorting Out the Risks and Benefits of HRT

To help women make sense of the confusion surrounding HRT, WebMD consulted an expert, JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, director of the Mid-life Health Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and chairwoman of the professional education committee of the North American Menopause Society.

Q. Who should be concerned about these and other recent studies on hormone replacement therapy?

A. I think there are two main groups of women who are most concerned with HRT issues.

First, there are the women with significant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, and are considering going on HRT.

The second group of women are those who have been on HRT for a long time, have read the recent information on HRT, decided to transition off HRT, and now have not fared well in terms of having significant menopausal symptoms.

Today on WebMD

woman walking outdoors
How to handle headaches, night sweats, and more.
mature woman holding fan in face
Symptoms and treatments.
woman hiding face behind hands
11 ways to keep skin bright and healthy.
Is it menopause or something else?
senior couple
mature woman shopping for produce
Alcohol Disrupting Your Sleep
mature couple on boat
mature woman tugging on her loose skin
senior woman wearing green hat
estrogen gene

WebMD Special Sections