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Climacteric. 2006 Dec;9(6):404-15.

Is HRT justified for symptom management in women at higher risk of developing breast cancer?

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King's Breast Care, King's College Hospital NHS Trust, London, UK.


Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most efficacious intervention for the treatment of estrogen-deficiency symptoms. Prescriptions for HRT have fallen over the last 3 years due to anxiety provoked about breast cancer risk and recurrence that has been generated by recent clinical trials. In women at population risk of breast cancer, these trials have not shown risks greater than estimates from clinical trial evidence that predated them. For women at increased breast cancer risk due to a family history or high-risk benign breast conditions, clinical trial data are limited but suggest a lack of an additive effect of HRT on risk. In symptomatic breast cancer survivors, observational data suggest no increase in recurrence but these data are open to bias. Interim analyses of large, randomized trials have shown contradictory outcomes and, as a result, three large HRT randomized trials have now been closed. The randomized LIBERATE trial evaluating tibolone in breast cancer survivors is fully recruited and continuing. The current clinical climate is 'HRT adverse' but, due to a lack of effective alternatives for symptom relief, women at higher breast cancer risk and breast cancer survivors are still requesting information about HRT. In this situation, discussion of the current clinical uncertainty surrounding the use of HRT must be undertaken to ensure that women are adequately informed.

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