Menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have had plenty to worry about for the past several years. But now, they may have reason to celebrate.  A new study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, confirms what scientists have suspected for a while:  Older women who take hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms may have a significantly reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer. 

Doctors who helped conduct the research are quick to clarify that HRT isn't a treatment option for colorectal cancer. Instead, their research demonstrates more of a "silver lining" of taking HRT.  Their studies show a 28 percent reduction in colorectal cancer risk.  It's not new information however.  The link between HRT and colorectal was first discovered in 2002, and at that time believed to result in a 40 percent risk reduction for women taking combined estrogen and progestin.  The risk reduction was thought to disappear when HRT was discontinued, though.   

Newer research suggests, though, that risk reduction benefits may extend beyond the time when women discontinue HRT.  Another report published in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research says that any use of estrogen therapy was associated with a 17 percent reduced risk in colorectal cancer. Among those who used estrogen, the largest reductions were seen among those who were current users (25 percent reduced risk) and users of ten or more years duration (26 percent reduced risk). Past users of estrogen plus progestin, who had stopped at least five years ago, had a 45 percent risk reduction.

What's the connection?  Researchers aren't sure but suspect that hormones may play a role in decreasing certain colorectal cancer growth factors.  While many menopausal women take HRT to reduce disruptive menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings and night sweats, doctors advise women to take these hormones for the shortest period possible.  HRT is associated with increased risk for breast cancer and heart disease in certain women. 

David Limsui, MD, lead author of the latest study and a fellow in the department of gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic was quoted in the U.S. News and World Report saying "the ideal situation would be that we find the pathway by which estrogen may protect against colorectal cancer risk and find a drug or a therapy that can provide protection through that pathway without the adverse effects of estrogen. We need to figure out how and why."