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HRT and ovarian cancer-is there a link?

18th April 2007

Further information from the controversial Million Women study has been published suggesting a link between use of HRT and increased risk of ovarian cancer. Although headlines will serve to alarm women about the risks of HRT, the findings must be viewed with some scepticism.

Firstly, the Million Women study has been hugely criticised due to design flaws and many experts believe that accurate conclusions cannot be drawn from the results of this study. Women’s use of HRT was noted at the time of completion of the questionnaire when attending for breast screening but no account taken of total duration of use of HRT, nor of whether or not HRT was stopped, or started anew following the questionnaire. It is therefore very likely that the recorded use of HRT in relation to ovarian, along with breast and endometrial cancer was inaccurate and so any changes shown cannot be definitely associated with HRT.

Secondly, even if the study is to be believed, the suggested increased risk of ovarian cancer of an extra 1 case per 2,500 women receiving HRT for 5 years is extremely small; 2,499 women taking HRT for 5 years and enjoying the benefits of HRT would not have any increased risk!

Women should of course be informed of both risks and benefits, but figures should be kept in perspective. This information does not change current advice and when used appropriately, the benefits of HRT continue to outweigh the risks for by far the majority of users.

Click here for a statement from the British Menopause Society
Click here for a statement from the International Menopause Society (PDF File)

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