New HRT hope in fight against breast cancer
A type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reserved for women without wombs protects against breast cancer long after treatment is stopped, a study has found.
Scientists followed the progress of some 7,500 women who took oestrogen-only HRT for seven years and were monitored for a further four-and-a- half years.
They were 23pc less likely to have developed develop breast cancer than other women in the study who were given a "dummy" placebo treatment.
Those in the HRT group who did develop the disease were also 63pc less likely to die from their condition.
Oestrogen-only HRT is known to be linked to cancer of the womb and for this reason given only to women who have undergone a hysterectomy.
The more common form of HRT containing both oestrogen and the hormone progesterone has been said to increase breast cancer risk, although the claim is controversial.
The new results, published online in The Lancet Oncology journal, come from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a major US study of post-menopausal women launched in 1993.
They show that women who had oestrogen-only HRT for around seven years and then stopped continued to enjoy long-lasting protection against breast cancer.
But the benefit had to be balanced against an increased risk of blood clots and strokes associated with HRT.
In addition, women with a naturally higher than normal risk of breast cancer did not appear to be protected.
Younger women aged 50 to 59 on oestrogen-only HRT were significantly less likely to suffer from heart disease or heart attacks.
Dr Rachel Greig, from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "This is a strong study which may provide reassurance to women of the effects of oestrogen-only HRT.
"However, it's important to remember that there are different types of HRT and other large studies have shown these can increase the risk of breast cancer as well as other health problems."