Cancer risk still elevated even years after stopping HRT

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that women who took hormone replacement therapy (HRT) face an increased risk of cancer several years after stopping the treatment, according to an NPR report.

Most doctors prescribed HRT for women experiencing bothersome symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats, mood swings and decreased sexual desire. Just a few years ago it was believed that long-term use of HRT was safe and offered other benefits, such as protecting against osteoporosis and heart disease.

However, preliminary results of the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) showed that the complications of HRT far outweighed the benefits. WHI researchers found that women on hormones were at an even higher risk for serious diseases and conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and blood clots.

The new study is the first follow up to the landmark WHI. The analysis focused on women’s health three years after stopping HRT. Researchers have found that women who stopped HRT still had an increased risk of cancer – especially breast and lung cancers. The report also found a decreased risk of heart disease.

During the second and third years after the end of WHI, researchers noticed that women who took hormones but stopped were 24 percent more likely to develop cancer than women who had taken placebos during WHI.

Researchers say the analysis results show that women who have stopped taking hormones need to be vigilant about getting cancer screenings and mammograms.