A study published today in The Lancet, looks at short-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the possible increased risk of ovarian cancer.

The findings from a meta-analysis of 52 epidemiological studies, involving a total of 21,488 women with ovarian cancer, almost all from North America, Europe and Australia, suggest that taking HRT for the menopause, even for just a few years, is associated with an increased risk of developing the two most common types of ovarian cancer.

Commenting on the meta-analysis, Dr Heather Currie, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Chairman Elect for the British Menopause Society said:

“While ovarian cancer is a serious disease, this study does not prove causation, particularly when it is stated that the incidence of ovarian cancer decreases with time after stopping HRT.

Additionally, the data are observational with significant risk of bias from other contributing risk factors such as age, obesity and smoking. It is important to emphasise that the absolute risk is extremely small.

Women who are currently taking HRT should not be concerned by this report. HRT is the most effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause and when HRT is individually tailored, it provides more benefits than risks for the majority of women under the age of 60, and for many beyond that age.”