July 16, 2008

Breast Cancer Self-Exams ‘Do More Harm Than Good’

By Lyndsay Moss

MEDICAL research can often produce conflicting advice on a number of health issues, making it difficult for women to know what to do for the best.

In recent years, much concern has been raised over the safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Millions of women around the world used HRT to control symptoms linked to the menopause.

However, a number of studies have linked the therapy to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, leading to many women stopping treatment.

Despite this, some experts believe the benefits of taking HRT - such as improving quality of life - may outweigh the risks of developing cancer.

Women are advised to take HRT for as short a time as possible in order to deal with symptoms.

Similar concerns have been raised about the contraceptive pill, which has been linked to a small risk of breast cancer.

But earlier this year, women were told not to worry about the risk of cancer when using the Pill - because it can actually reduce the risk of developing cancers for several decades.

The research found that, in the long term, oral contraceptives cut the risk of ovarian and womb cancers.

Meanwhile, women planning to have a baby have also experienced conflicting advice about alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

In the past, mothers-to-be have been told that one or two units of alcohol a week during pregnancy was unlikely to harm their baby. But now, official government advice states no alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy because of the risks of foetal alcohol syndrome, which is responsible for abnormalities in babies.

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