HC Deb 27 November 2003 vol 415 cc369-70W
Mrs. Iris Robinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what advice the Government are providing for women on hormone replacement therapy regarding the risk of breast cancer; and if he will make a statement. [141847]

Miss Melanie Johnson

The Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) and its expert working group on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have kept the safety of HRT under constant review and provided targeted advice to women and health professionals in response to important new evidence as it has emerged.

In August 2003, the United Kingdom "Million Women" study provided important new information about the risks of breast cancer in long term HRT users.

On the day of publication, the CSM informed women of the increase in risk that was observed in association with each different type of HRT preparation. The CSM further advised that these risks increase the longer that HRT is used, but return to normal within five years of stopping HRT. All women using HRT have been encouraged to attend regular breast screening and regularly check their breasts for any changes. Women have also been advised not to use HRT if they have breast cancer or if they have had it in the past.

In addition, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has placed a comprehensive review of the risks, including breast cancer, associated with HRT use for women on its website. Detailed information has also been published in the safety bulletins issued by the MHRA and the Chief Medical Officer, which are also available on their respective websites.

The patient information leaflet that accompanies each pack of medicine has contained information about the risk of breast cancer in association with HRT use for some years. This information has been regularly updated to fully reflect all important new evidence as it has become available.

Very recently, a Europe-wide review of the overall risks and benefits of HRT has been completed. UK experts participated in this review and the CSM has endorsed its recommendations, published on 3 December 2003, that HRT should no longer be considered as the first choice treatment for the prevention of osteoporosis, for women over the age of 50 years. As with earlier advice, this information has been made available to health professionals and women through targeted communications and the MHRA website.

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