HRT and Cancer; What’s the Link?

In the past couple of months there has a been a groundswell of publicity surrounding something that hasn’t been discussed at such length since 2003.

HRT, Replacement Wellman

HRT. Hormone Replacement Therapy, specifically HRT for women experiencing the menopause.

The menopause occurs in all women’s lives – usually between the ages of 45 and 55. The female body stops producing oestrogen and regular periods stop. What women are the lucky beneficiaries of during this ‘life change’ is a litany of unpleasant side-effects.

For (potentially) four years or more after the end of their periods, some women experience menopausal symptoms. These include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort, poor sleep, reduced libido, problems with memory and concentration, changes in mood and increased anxiety.

Sounds like fun, right?

In the 1960’s HRT was introduced to alleviate the symptoms of the menopause – at long last relief for sleepless, hormonal women (and their long suffering families)! Unfortunately, what followed was a rise in the cases of breast and ovarian cancer in women taking the drug. Because, y’know, women just can’t cut a break. The link between HRT and the two cancers was publicised in 2002 and resulted in two-thirds less women adopting the drug.

What’s this got to do with the here-and-now?

The broadsheet readers amongst you may have noticed several headlines in the past month announcing that a study found HRT not to have a noticeable link to cancer. If you’re a regular reader you might have then spotted several smaller articles denouncing the reported results – including the author of the research, Dr Lila Nachtigall.

The research conducted looked into the effect of HRT treatment on body fat in 80 women – in a passing comment Nachtigall mentioned that none of the women studied had gotten cancer. In her own words “we made it very clear it was not a study. It was just an observation”.[1]

Yet NICE have recently introduced new guidelines which come out in favour of prescribing HRT to prevent women from ‘suffering in silence’.[2] So what’s going on?

Well, aside from the newspapers taking a quote completely out of context – this is just a case of measuring responses.

There is a link between HRT treatment and breast and ovarian cancer. But the risk is affected by different factors, including the length of time HRT is taken, and the family history of the patient.

The menopause can cause symptoms that for some women are simply unbearable and could be resolved with HRT. The current guidelines do not go as far as to encourage more people to take the treatment – but do highlight that by improving awareness of the potential benefits and risks of the treatment many women’s lives could be improved.

Now that steps are being made to improve awareness of the effects of the menopause and the treatments available – why shouldn’t the same movement occur in men’s health?

Low testosterone conditions could affect as much as 50% of men over the age of 50. Much like the menopause the symptoms can be psychologically and physically difficult to deal with, and yet awareness of this natural hormonal change is low. But help is available. Testosterone Replacement Therapy can help resolve the symptoms of low testosterone.

If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, why not book an appointment with the WellMan Clinic today?

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/07/scientists-fear-pr-campaign-underplays-hrt-cancer-risks

[2] https://www.nice.org.uk/news/press-and-media/nice-issues-first-guideline-on-menopause-to-stop-women-suffering-in-silence

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