New developments in women’s healthcare


HRT cuts risk of cardiovascular risk by 50%. HRT continues to cause controversy, with some studies reporting a significant increase in risk of everything from breast cancer to stroke, particularly if HRT is started later in life, long after the menopause. But we also know that if women have a very early menopause and do not have estrogen, they increase their risk of heart attack, stroke and osteoporosis. A recent Danish study supports the work on premature ovarian failure, reporting that women who took HRT from around the time of the menopause, had a 50% reduction in heart attack and a 30% reduction in risk of stroke, with no increase in the risk of breast cancer. While this study does not provide definitive answers it is more in keeping with studies in younger women.


There is no doubt that mammography has the potential to detect breast cancer early, thereby improving options and survival for women, particularly as they get older. But the benefits of a screening test must be weighed against the possible negative effects of the test. A recent article reports that despite substantial increases in the number of cases of early-stage breast cancer detected, screening mammography has only marginally reduced the rate at which women present with advanced cancer. The paper suggests that there is substantial overdiagnosis, accounting for nearly a third of all newly diagnosed breast cancers; many of the cancers diagnosed by mammography may not have progressed if left alone. While screening is still recommended for women over the age of fifty, it is important to recognize both the advantages and disadvantages to using mammography.


Your body can make Vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight, but as we now use lots of sunblock many women have low Vitamin D levels. Normal vitamin D levels help with bone density and strength, as well as helping with weight management and helping the brain to know when it has enough food. As a spin off to a much larger trial on breast cancer, the University of Sheffield also report that women with normal (as opposed to low) levels of Vitamin D have a much better prognosis with breast cancer.

Checking Vitamin D levels involves a simple blood test.