Hormone Therapy Safe During Ovarian Cancer?

Medically Reviewed by Rob Hicks, MD on September 29, 2015

Sept. 29, 2015 -- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be safe for women with ovarian cancer, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

HRT has been linked to an increased risk of getting breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer. This is the first study to look at the risk of HRT for women who already have ovarian cancer.

Because treatment for that disease can trigger menopause, doctors may prescribe HRT to help a woman’s symptoms. Researchers wanted to know if HRT affects survival in women who already have epithelial ovarian cancer, the most common type of the disease.

They included 150 women with epithelial ovarian cancer, mainly from the U.K. Their average age was 59.

Half were supposed to receive HRT for a minimum of 5 years, alongside their cancer treatment, and half did not. For the group that did receive HRT, the average time they stayed on the therapy was over a year. The main reason women stopped taking HRT was "medical reasons/side effects."

The researchers followed the women for an average of 19 years.

At end of the follow-up period, 53 of the 75 women (71%) who received the HRT had died, compared with 68 of the 75 women who did not receive it (91%). Most of the women who passed away died of ovarian cancer. Fifty women in the hormone replacement therapy group died of ovarian cancer compared with 56 women in the control group.

Researchers say that was a statistically significant benefit, in terms of survival, in the group taking hormone replacement therapy.

In a press release, Fiona Osgun, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, described the results as a "great first step," but she calls for larger studies to confirm the results.