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Experts hit out at HRT health fears

Overhyped fears about the health risks associated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not deter women from seeking the treatment, an international panel of experts has said.

In alleviating symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes, and maintaining healthy bones, without significant side effects, HRT has proved to be a safe and effective treatment, according to the International Menopause Society (IMS).

The group has called on doctors to prescribe HRT more regularly, arguing that risks of raising the risk of heart disease for these women, and its impact on breast cancer was "minimal".

Although certain types of HRT containing combinations of oestrogen and progesterone could slightly increase the chances of developing breast cancer, their effect was dwarfed by other risk factors, they said.

Dr David Sturdee, one of the report's authors and president-elect of the IMS, said: "Women's confidence has been shattered. They are going to take a lot of convincing that the initial reports weren't actually a reliable assessment of the data."

The scientists said the health hazards of HRT had been blown out of proportion largely because of misleading results from a major American investigation, the Women's Health Initiative.

The IMS pointed out that study was flawed because the average age of women in the trial was too old, many had high blood pressure, were largely overweight and smoked.

Dr Sturdee, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Solihull Hospital, said at least a million women in the UK had stopped taking HRT because of unfounded health fears and suffered as a result.

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International Menopause Society