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HRT patches 'safer than tablets'

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Hormone replacement therapy patches may be a safer option for women than tablets as they reduce the risk of stroke, a study has suggested.

According to researchers, using patches with low doses of the hormones oestrogen and/or progesterone lowers the risk of suffering a stroke.

However, high-dose patches significantly increase this risk, with the chance of stroke up to 90 per cent higher than patients who are not on HRT.

Women taking HRT tablets, in low or high doses of either or both hormones for a year or more, have a 28 per cent increased risk of stroke than non-users, the researchers from the universities of Montreal in Canada and Bremen in Germany found.

HRT is used to control the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and mood changes, and can help cut the risk of a woman developing osteoporosis and bowel cancer.

However, it has also been linked to increasing the likelihood of stroke, breast cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer.

Five years ago, a review of clinical trials discovered that all types of HRT increased the risk of stroke by about a third.

The authors concluded in the study, published online in the British Medical Journal, that patches maybe safer than tablets, although they called for more research.

They said there was no increased risk from tablets if they were used for a year or less, but the risks increased with prolonged use.

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