Q: I’m having severe symptoms of menopause and I’m miserable. I want to try hormone replacement therapy, but my doctor says it causes breast cancer. Is this true?
As a doctor and specialist in Women’s Health and Hormonal Health in particular, I can assure you this is FALSE. Early in 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) released the results of a poorly designed and highly flawed study of two synthetic HRT drugs rarely used by medical professionals. The women in the study were also older than women who would normally be ideal candidates for HRT. The ongoing media hype ended up scaring the hell out of women and their doctors, and steering them away from HRT for the next decade, to the overall detriment of women’s health.
There is a large amount of good data that shows that many types of HRT are safe and have positive effects on women’s health and actually reduce the risk of breast cancer. Testosterone not only reduces the risk of developing breast cancer, it’s also used as a palliative treatment for breast cancer patients. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy carries no increased risk for breast cancer, and its use in women with hormonal deficiencies or symptoms of menopause also offsets many other serious health risks.
Risk factors for developing breast cancer include gender – as a woman, you are far more likely to develop breast cancer than a man. Aging is another factor – as you get older and your hormone levels fall, your risk increases. Other risk factors to consider are genetic mutations, family history of breast cancer in a close relative, race and ethnicity. Lifestyle risk factors include smoking, excess alcohol consumption, being overweight or obese, lack of regular exercise, poor dietary habits, long-term use of oral contraceptives and chemical exposure from the environment.
Early detection is key to improving breast cancer survival rates, which is why regular self-exams and mammograms are important. Understanding breast cancer risk factors, and the truth about the benefits of HRT can all help women make informed health choices that are right for them.