This week, many papers have been reporting the story that HRT “doubles your breast cancer risk”. To find out more about this story, I suggest you visit NHS Choices, there you can read what scientists and doctors think of the study as well as the original research. NHS Choices-HRT Cancer Connection
Different papers have reported this story in different ways, but most point out that HRT “doubles” your risk (e.g. in the Daily Telgraph or The Sun). This is true, but many people don’t know what their risk of getting breast cancer is anyway (usually people with the disease in their family over estimate their risk and people who don’t have the disease in your family underestimate it, which probably says something about human nature)
If your are 25 years old your risk of breast cancer is 1 in 15, 000
If you are 85 years old your risk of breast cancer is 1 in 10
So what does this new study tell us? If you want some idea of the numbers involved you can have a read of Cancer Research UK’s HRT and Cancer pages. Here they discuss the actual numbers involved, for instance if you are aged between 40 and 79 and you don’t take HRT 72 out of 1000 women will develop breast cancer (just by chance). If you take HRT for 10 years then 84 out of 1000 women will develop breast cancer. So that means HRT contributes to 12 cases of breast cancer (per 1000 women)
Every time you see a story like this in the news, it’s a good idea to check out the details before worrying that it might apply for you, this information on the NHS Choices by Dr Alicia White tells you what you should look for in a news report.
If you want to know more about how newspapers report health stories then have a read of “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre.