HRT reduces a women’s risk of an early death, according to research from the University of East Anglia, despite concerns over increased breast cancer risk.
The pre-print study, accepted yesterday by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, followed 105,199 women between 46 and 65 with an hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescription and compared them against 224,643 non-users of the same age and GP practice.
The scientists found the risk of death from all causes drops by 9% for women taking combined HRT. And for women taking oestrogen-only therapy, the risk of death remains neutral.
They argued the findings support an ‘emerging consensus’ that ‘the benefits of HRT outweigh the harm’ for most women. Combined HRT therapy has previously been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, which has led to fewer women taking HRT to ease menopausal symptoms.
Unlike previous research into the risk of death from HRT, the study also adjusted for type 2 diabetes, hypertension and its treatments, coronary heart disease and oophorectomy/hysterectomy status, as well as BMI smoking and deprivation status.
Professor Elena Kulinskaya, from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The untreated menopausal symptoms eventually increase the risks of other health conditions, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and incur additional costs to the healthcare systems.
‘All-cause mortality is the crucial endpoint that essentially summarises the net effect of HRT but was rarely analysed in the past,’ she added.
And Professor Nick Steel, from the University of Anglia medical school, dubbed it ‘exciting’ that the new research found ‘combined HRT use was linked to an overall lower risk of death, and that oestrogen-only HRT was not linked to an increased risk of death’.
He added: ‘UK primary care data has now enabled long term follow-up of thousands of women in the UK, comparing the overall risk of death over many years for those using HRT with those not.’
HRT replaces the hormones lost when a woman goes through the menopause, and it can relieve symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and depression.
The study comes as Labour MP Carolyn Harris is introducing a private member’s bill to change legislation so that women in England would not have to pay for HRT.
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