Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Cancer Council calls for Govt to review HRT p -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: The New South Wales Cancer Council is today calling on the Federal Government to
review its policies on hormone replacement therapy.

The council cites the findings of a study by the Cancer Council which links a drop in the incidence
of breast cancer to a decline in the use of the hormone therapy HRT.

But while the council says the study should prompt a review, other experts say the findings merely
confirm what we already knew.

Sara Everingham has our report.

SARA EVERINGHAM: In 2001, a United States study revealed a small increase in the breast cancer risk
for some women on hormone replacement therapy. It prompted thousands of women to stop the
treatment.

New research by the New South Wales Cancer Council has looked into what effects that had on a local
level. They've found the decline in the use of HRT coincided with a drop in the incidence of breast
cancer.

Dr Karen Canfell is the lead author of the research:

KAREN CANFELL: So we found that between 2001 and 2003, there was a 40 per cent drop in HRT
prescribing in Australia, and at the same time there was seven per cent drop in breast cancer rates
in women over 50 years of age.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Dr Canfell says the study supports other international studies.

KAREN CANFELL: We feel the study is important for Australian women because it shows for the first
time an impact on the population level, that women can actually reduce their risk of breast cancer
just by keeping their use of HRT to a minimum and just making sure they use it for the shortest
possible time.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The impact of the local study could be immediate in consultation rooms around the
country.

Dr Brian Morton is the president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Medical
Association.

BRIAN MORTON: The obvious answer is that there's been a massive reduction in prescribing HRT and I
think this will keep the impetus there and remove any doubt that doctors will continue to prescribe
less.

SARA EVERINGHAM: They'll continue to prescribe less, you think?

BRIAN MORTON: Yes, I think doctors will prescribe less HRT and probably be more overt in
counselling women not to continue.

SARA EVERINGHAM: At the moment, the Therapeutic Goods Administration recommends hormone replacement
therapy be used in the short-term for the management of the symptoms of menopause.

But according to the Cancer Council New South Wales, figures from 2004 and 2005 show 11 per cent of
women over the age of 45 were on HRT for greater than five years.

The council's CEO is Andrew Penman:

ANDREW PENMAN: I mean, the TGA in Australia has been in line with the US and UK counterparts in
calling for HRT to be limited to use and for regular of use of indication and used to be
undertaken. The question is whether you might want to be more firm in imposing a two-year deadline
on treatment and putting conditions on any decision to continue use.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But Dr Helen Zorbas from the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre says it's
not time for change. She says the study confirms what was already known.

HELEN ZORBAS: Women who take HRT are at increase risk of breast cancer while they taking the
hormone replacement therapy, and this risk falls soon after women stop taking hormone replacement
therapy. This study actually gives us more data to confirm that relationship.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Do you think there's any need for the Federal Government to reconsider its
policies on HRT?

HELEN ZORBAS: I think the recommendations that are currently out there in relation to HRT use are
still valid. There's been no new studies that would indicate that those recommendations need to be
reviewed or changed in my opinion.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Dr Zorbas agrees with the Cancer Council that the decision to stop HRT should be
up to the individual. And that goes even for women who've been using HRT for longer than the
recommended time.

HELEN ZORBAS: It's difficult for us to make a decision about that when some women really suffer
terribly in their quality of life, is really very poor because of the symptoms of the menopause,
and again, I think it's important say that for women who are on it in the long-term, it would only
be after everything else has failed. They've tried other options, and they're really very cognisant
of the risks that their use is giving to them.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Helen Zorbas is from the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, and she was
speaking to Sara Everingham.