What is the risk in long-term use of hormone replacement therapy?

The overall increased risk of serious adverse effects, such as breast cancer, stroke and pulmonary embolism, with long-term hormone replacement therapy. There is also some evidence to suggest that estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy may also increase the risk of breast cancer. Many studies have also been done to investigate whether hormonal hormone therapy is safe for women who have experienced premature or severe menopausal symptoms as a result of cancer treatments that lower hormone levels. Studies suggest that both combined hormone replacement therapy and estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer, but the risk is low. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective way to reduce menopausal symptoms and improve the quality of life for people experiencing menopause.

Women concerned about changes that occur naturally with the decline in hormone production that occurs during menopause can make lifestyle and diet changes to reduce the risk of certain health effects. Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), also called postmenopausal hormone therapy and hormone replacement therapy, is sometimes used to replace the natural hormones estrogen and progesterone present in a woman's body during and after menopause, when levels of these hormones decrease. Low-dose hormone therapy may slightly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, but the risk can be kept low by using it for the shortest possible time. Some hormone products, which may be referred to as bioidentical hormones, are available without a prescription.

Both trials were soon discontinued (in 2002 and 2004, respectively), when it was determined that both types of therapy were associated with specific health risks. Hormone replacement therapy is a medication that contains hormones that the ovaries produce less of as women age and reach menopause. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen alone can increase the risk of uterine cancer (cancer of the uterus), so removal of the uterus is generally recommended only for women who have had a hysterectomy. Some studies suggest that users of combined or estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy may have a lower risk of colorectal cancer, while others do not.

There isn't enough research yet on the cancer risk associated with hormone therapies that are used in this way. Taking estrogen alone can cause cancer in the lining of the uterus, but women who have had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) can take estrogen alone, as they no longer have this risk of cancer. Research suggests that the risks of long-term use of combined hormone replacement therapy outweigh the benefits for most women.