The debate over the safety and benefit of hormone replace therapy (HRT) has taken another turn, after a study found its long-term use significantly cut heart attacks and heart failure, without raising the risk of cancer, blood clots or stroke.

In the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from Denmark studied 1006 healthy, menopausal women over an initial 10-year period, 504 of which were receiving HRT. 

During the period, 33 women in the non-HRT group died or experienced a heart attack or heart failure, compared to just 16 in those receiving hormone therapy.

And this observation was carried through a six-year follow-up period, during which 53 women in the non-HRT group experienced the cardiovascular endpoints compared with 33 in the HRT group.

Crucially, the study also found that women who had undergone a hysterectomy and younger women taking HRT were at a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer, with 10 cases compared to 17 in the control group.

HRT debate

The results are interesting as experts have been arguing the merits/dangers of HRT for 10 years, after results from the US Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study in 2002 found that HRT raised the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

The authors conclude that treatment with long-term HRT early after menopause “significantly reduced risk of mortality, heart failure, or myocardial infarction [heart attack], without any apparent increase of cancer, venous thromboembolisms [DVT] or stroke.” 

But the did also stress that "due to the potential time lag longer time may be necessary to take more definite conclusions".