The J Natl Cancer Inst. has published reassuring findings from a case control study. Women with BRCA1 mutations have a lifetime risk for breast cancer of 60-80%. Many of these women undergo prophylactic oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) before menopause as a way to lower their risk. This surgery can cause severe, sometimes disabling symptoms of menopause and really affect a woman's quality of life. Because of the concerns about breast cancer, these women are afraid to use hormone replacement to relieve symptoms.
This study, supported by the N.I.H., looked at 472 women and matched them with controls. They found that there was no evidence of higher breast cancer with hormone therapy use in BRCA1 mutation carriers and it even provided a surprising suggestion that hormones could be protective. This important study allows us to reassure women with BRCA1 mutations that use of menopausal hormones are OK to relieve severe symptoms of menopause.