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Evidence HRT could reduce bowel cancer risk

Published on 02/02/09 at 09:44am

A new study has found more evidence that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may reduce a woman's risk of bowel cancer.

The finding is based on an analysis of data from 56,733 postmenopausal women who took part in the 15-year follow-up study of the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project.

960 women were diagnosed with bowel cancer over the course of the study.

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager, Cancer Research UK welcomed the new data, but said it was important to remember that HRT can also increase the risk of other cancers, including breast cancer. Those who had used oestrogen-only hormone therapy at some stage in their lives, but who had stopped, still had a 17% reduced risk of bowel cancer (relative to those who had never used HRT).

Those who were still taking HRT had a 25% reduced risk, and those who had been taking it for ten or more years had a 26% reduced risk.

Women who had used combined HRT (oestrogen and progestin) at some stage had a 22% reduced risk, while those who had stopped taking oestrogen and progestin at least five years previously had a 45 per cent reduced risk.

Previous research has suggested that hormones may help to reduce the risk of bowel cancer by decreasing levels of insulin-like growth factors.

However, more research will be needed to determine the mechanism by which HRT apparently reduces bowel cancer risk. A number of previous studies also found evidence of HRT's protective effect against bowel cancer.

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