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Ovarian Cancer Risk with Estrogen Replacement Therapy during Menopause

Review on November 26, 2009

Estrogen replacement therapy

Menopause can be an extremely stressful and uncomfortable time for many women and one of the best known and most effective treatments for a wide range of menopause symptoms is estrogen replacement therapy. Although this treatment can help to reduce hot flashes, sleep deprivation and night sweats recent medical research has shown it to have some very dangerous side effects, including increasing the risk of breast and endometrial cancer. As both these cancers are hormone related such evidence has lead to further research which investigates the possible links between the menopause treatment of estrogen replacement therapy and ovarian cancer.

From 1982 to 1996 a questionnaire based study was carried out by The American Cancer Society. Questionnaires were completed by as many as 211,581 women when the study first started and all the women involved were in post menopause, without suffering from a history of cancer, ovarian surgery or hysterectomy. Researchers were particularly interested in learning more about the use of replacement estrogen hormones in common hormone therapies and their possible links to cancers, especially ovarian cancer, which is yet to be understood with this type of menopause treatment. Researchers compared women who had never used replacement estrogen hormones with those that had used them in the past and those that were currently undergoing estrogen hormone therapy.

type of hysterectomies

Over the 14 that researchers followed the women, 944 ovarian cancer deaths occurred. Women who were using replacement estrogen hormones to treatment menopause symptoms in 1982 were more likely to die from ovarian cancer than those that had never used the treatment. While comparatively, a slight risk of ovarian cancer was recorded for those who had previously undergone hormone therapy treatment before the questionnaire was completed. Patients who had taken hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms for ten years or more posed the highest risk of developing ovarian cancer.

While the research team noted that those women who had previously taken replacement estrogen hormones reduced the risk of ovarian cancer with every year they were off the medication, it was clear that any use of hormone therapy during or after menopause posed some risk. Calculations show that it would take a woman 29 years without replacement estrogen hormones to cut the risk of ovarian cancer to what it would have been had she never taken the treatment.

This research undertaken by The American Cancer Society highlights yet another danger of prolonged hormone replacement use in the treatment of menopause symptoms. Ovarian Cancer can be fatal and it is now evermore important for women going through menopause to comprehensively look at the risks and benefits of estrogen therapy in order to find out if the treatment is worthwhile for them. Seeking the help and advice of a doctor or medical professional is important in order to discuss the relevant research and medication available for menopause sufferers.