New research on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills could leave women even more confused about the risks and benefits of the drugs, doctors warn. The research, published in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery, suggests that pills containing estrogen may help lower the risk for brain aneurysms. The news follows a tidal wave of studies that linked HRT to breast cancer and other deadly conditions including ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, heart attack, stroke and blood clots.
“I think women are confused,” Dr. Joanna Longstaffe, clinical director of Independent General Practice told Wales Online. “I have far fewer people coming in for HRT and more coming in with menopausal symptoms saying they can’t have HRT because of the risks of breast cancer. This new research may muddy the waters more.”
Dr. Longstaffe says that women shouldn’t be misled about the new information. While women are at greater risk for brain aneurysms and estrogen helps protect women from developing them, brain aneurysms are very rare, and breast cancer is far more common.
For the study, researchers asked 60 women with intact brain aneurysms about their use of birth control pills or HRT, and then compared their answers with more than 4,600 women from the general population. Women with brain aneurysms were found to be significantly less likely to have taken oral contraceptives or HRT during their lives. They also had an earlier average age of menopause.
It’s very much an individual decision about whether to take HRT based on how bad a patient’s menopausal symptoms are and balancing the risks and benefits,” says Dr. Charlotte Jones, a GP in Swansea and chair of the Morgannwg Local Committee. “But patients do have to be aware of the risks, which is why we review decisions about HRT annually with patients.”