Join in

Four in 10 menopausal women are worried that taking HRT could increase their risk of breast cancer

A new survey by Mumsnet and Gransnet has found further evidence that a fear of the breast cancer risk is stopping many women from taking HRT.

By Justine Roberts | Last updated Jul 14, 2021

HRT pills

A new survey by Mumsnet and Gransnet of 1,096 women in the UK, 71% of whom are going through or have gone through perimenopause, and 51% of whom are going through or have gone through menopause, has found further evidence that a fear of the breast cancer risk is stopping many women from taking HRT. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on menopause are very clear that ‘for the majority of women, the benefits of taking HRT outweigh any risks’ and ‘oestrogen‑only HRT causes little or no change in the risk of breast cancer.’

Just 22% of those who are currently perimenopausal, and 38% of those who are currently menopausal, say they are taking HRT. 41% of those who are perimenopausal, and 40% of those who are currently menopausal, say they are worried about increasing their own risk of breast cancer if they take HRT.

14% of Mumsnet and Gransnet users in our survey say they’ve found it difficult to get a doctor to prescribe HRT. And many spoke about being stonewalled by their GPs:

I've heard it's really difficult to get and I haven’t got the energy to argue with my doctor.

My GP doesn’t think I am perimenopausal, I do.

My GP refused me HRT and would not refer me.

Of those not taking HRT, 28% say they don’t like taking medication at all unless it’s strictly necessary, and 15% say they wanted to push through without medication. 34% said they aren’t taking HRT because their symptoms are not affecting their life too badly.

Mumsnet Founder Justine Roberts said: 'Every day on Mumsnet and Gransnet we see women speaking about how badly menopause symptoms affect their lives in every aspect, from sex and mental health to work and sleep, yet the medicine that can address these symptoms is kept out of their reach.'

Dr Louise Newson, a GP and menopause specialist who holds an Advanced Menopause Specialist certificate with FSRH and the BMS, said: 'It’s important to remember that the risk of breast cancer is most influenced by factors you can’t do much about (such as age and family history) as well as three you can do something about (weight, alcohol intake and exercise). These risk factors are associated with a greater risk of breast cancer than taking any type of HRT. I believe – and NICE guidelines tell us – that most women would benefit from taking HRT to help with their symptoms of perimenopause and menopause and also help protect their future health from heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia.'

Survey, undertaken between 20 May and 7 June 2021, of 1,096 women in the UK, 848 of whom have gone through or are currently going through perimenopause or menopause. The data is not weighted.