Higher Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Doses Linked to Increased Cancer Risk, Reveals Study

A recent study has unveiled that many women might be unaware of the potential risk of developing womb cancer when taking higher doses of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although HRT containing oestrogen is generally safe when used at the prescribed dosage, women often resort to larger doses of these medications to alleviate menopause-related symptoms, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Oestrogen, a hormone that decreases with age, is responsible for most menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, and cognitive impairment. However, social media messages that advocate for higher medication intake to alleviate these symptoms have led to an increase in HRT use.

According to Cancer Research UK, oestrogen-only HRT carries an elevated risk of womb cancer. The risk escalates with prolonged HRT usage and may persist for years after discontinuation. Consequently, this type of HRT is usually prescribed only to individuals who have undergone a hysterectomy.

Research conducted by The Eve Appeal, a gynaecological cancer charity, revealed that a significant number of women are oblivious to the potential dangers of excessive oestrogen intake. The charity conducted a survey of 2,000 women in the UK, highlighting the need for increased awareness regarding the connection between excess oestrogen and womb cancer, which affects nearly 10,000 women annually.

Dr. Katie Barber, who manages a GP-led NHS gynaecology service in Oxfordshire, commented on the situation, saying, “Roughly one in ten women on HRT are taking two or even three times the maximum dose.” She further emphasized that safety studies for HRT at these elevated doses have not been conducted.

Typically, HRT medications are prescribed in patch, gel, or spray form. These drugs contain compounds similar to the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are absorbed through the skin. Excessive intake of these compounds can potentially lead to anxiety, palpitations, and mood swings.

Patients may also experience tachyphylaxis, a phenomenon where they require increasingly higher doses of hormonal treatment to achieve the desired effects. Prolonged consumption of oestrogen and progesterone in imbalanced proportions can cause the thickening of the womb lining, known as endometrial hyperplasia. This condition can result in heavy bleeding and heighten the risk of developing womb cancer.

Excess oestrogen can also be triggered by health conditions such as obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Moreover, it has been associated with an increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

Dr. Aziza Sesay, a GP collaborating with The Eve Appeal, highlighted the significance of understanding and reducing the risk associated with heightened oestrogen levels, stating, “Factors that elevate oestrogen levels in the body, such as conditions like PCOS and medications like HRT, consequently increase the risk of these cancers. Being aware of this and learning how to reduce this risk can be lifesaving.”

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