Is There An HRT Cancer Link?


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For years doctors have treated some of the most severe symptoms of menopause with one form of hormone replacement therapy or another. As time has passed, however, the safety of this particular measure has been brought into question. Many find themselves wondering if there is a defined HRT cancer link.

Unfortunately, as effective as hormone replacement therapy is in treating such symptoms as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal discomforts, the truth is the hrt cancer link is present and it tends to be rather strong in some instances. Still, this form of therapy is sometimes the best route to take. The links between HRT and cancer do depend on the types of hormone replacement therapy in question and the particular form of cancer. There are many different types of hormone replacement therapy. The hrt cancer link tends to vary for each. In fact, some hrt tends to reduce the risk for some forms of cancer.

The most common types of hrt include:

Estrogen replacement – Also known as ERT, this form of therapy seeks to increase the levels of estrogen in a woman's body. This is typically attained through synthetic hormones. This form of therapy doesn't tend to be offered for extended periods of time on its own any longer.

Combined hormone replacement therapy – This form of treatment uses a combination of estrogen and progestin. It is either given in continuous form with the same dosage every day or sequential, which involves varying amounts of the hormones over the course of a monthly cycle meant to mirror normal menstrual periods.

These two forms of synthetic hormone replacement therapy are also joined by a form called custom hrt. The hrt cancer link with custom, bio-identical hormones is still under debate.

Some of the more common incidences of cancer thought to have a link with hrt include:

Uterine cancer – When estrogen is used alone as a form of treatment, the risk of uterine cancer appears to go up. When vaginal creams or hormone rings are used to increase the estrogen levels in the body over prolonged periods of time, the risk seems to be higher. When menopause is complete or a uterus is still present, most doctors will not prescribe estrogen alone to prevent the hrt cancer link from connecting in this case. There are studies that strongly suggest combined hrt does not present as high a risk for uterine cancer as estrogen alone.

Breast cancer – The hrt cancer link in the case of breast cancer is also rather strong. Recent studies have shown that combined hrt increased chances for developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. Estrogen replacement alone is thought to not increase the risks for breast cancer development in the same way, but there are other potential downfalls here.

Ovarian cancer – The hrt cancer link here is still under study. In the case of estrogen alone, some studies do suggest a link when therapy continues for long periods of time. The risk with combined hrt appears to be minimal.

Colon cancer – Studies have shown that combined hrt can actually reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 40 percent. There seems to be no impact one way or the other with ERT therapy.

The hrt cancer link is quite strong, but that does not mean this form of therapy isn't beneficial in some cases. Many women are advised to undergo this form of treatment under close medical supervision. It is suggested that doctors closely monitor patients using hrt to help detect cancer immediately if it arises. Women, too, are typically advised to perform breast self-exams and report any unusual symptoms immediately.

The benefits of hrt versus the potential risk are typically carefully weighed from patient to patient. Sometimes hrt is the best possible option for treating symptoms. Sometimes it simply is not worth the risks.

Dawn M. Olsen is an Advocate for Better Women’s Health through Education, Recipe Developer, Soy Food Enthusiast and the Author of “Menopause A to Z - A Definitive Guide to Modern Menopause available online now at

Find out more about how to deal with menopause symptoms .


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