Pity the woman seeking relief from symptoms of menopause. Since a 2002 Women's Health Initiative study raised the alarm about hormone replacement therapy's link to increased risk of breast cancer, duelling interpretations have raged about what the association means. This week, the Canadian Cancer Society renewed its warning with fresh data on the link.
Between 2002 and 2004, the use of HRT by women aged 50 to 69 fell by 50 per cent and breast cancer rates dropped by 10 per cent, the society found. Oddly, in 2006, the society dismissed similar American findings, noting breast cancer rates in Canada were stable since 1993.
More vexing for women is the fact there is little firm ground for concluding anything about the link. Further, both the cancer society and physicians suspect hormone therapy may simply trigger existing cancerous tumours to swell, such that they are more easily detected.
There is too much research yet to be done on HRT. The prudent route for women is to weigh the personal risks and benefits of HRT with their doctors. What the data have shown is that older women need careful and regular monitoring.