London: Postmenopausal women who take controversial hormone replacement therapy are at increased risk of getting and dying from lung cancer, says a new study.
An eight-year study of 16,600 women found the disease was 71 per cent more likely to be fatal in women taking HRT compared with those taking a placebo pill, reports The Guardian.
Medical academic Apar Kishor Ganti claims the new results could be ``nail in the coffin`` for HRT.
In the medical journal the Lancet, the expert argues that new research linking a form of HRT to higher mortality rates in lung cancer is the latest in a long line of evidence highlighting the serious risks of the therapy.
Previous studies have shown that HRT can also increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes.
Kishor Ganti, from the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, writes: "These results, along with the findings showing no protection against coronary heart disease, seriously question whether HRT has any role in medicine today. It is difficult to presume that the benefits of routine use of such therapy for menopausal symptoms outweigh the risks of mortality, especially in the absence of improvement in the quality of life."
The study states: "Our findings should be considered before the initiation or continuation of combined hormone therapy in post-menopausal women, especially those with a high risk of lung cancer, such as current or long-term past smokers."
As for the reason behind the increased mortality: it could be oestrogen stimulating the growth of new blood vessels – which can cause the cancer to grow and spread. Another possible cause could be that HRT makes the cancer difficult to detect, leading to a delay in diagnosis, it suggests.