Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can triple the risk of breast cancer, a recent major study has found.

Findings from the Institute of Cancer Research in London (ICR) say the risks of taking the pills have been underestimated for a number of years.

Anthony Swerdlow, professor of epidemiology at the ICR, said: “What we found is that the risks with combined HRT are larger than most of the literature would suggest.”

The research found women who took the combined HRT therapy, which consists of oestrogen and progestogen pill, were 2.7 times more likely to develop cancer, compared to women who took nothing, or just the oestrogen pill.

HRT was first developed in the 1940s and made available to women in Britain in 1965. An estimated one in 10 women in their 50s use HRT to deal with menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings and tiredness.

Dr Heather Currie, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and chair of the British Menopause Society, said: “Women need clear, evidence-based information to break through the conflicts of opinion and confusion about the menopause.

“For many women, any change in breast-cancer risk is outweighed by the benefit on their quality of life, bearing in mind that there are many other factors that increase the risk of breast cancer, for example lifestyle factors.”

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