Women who take hormone treatments after menopause are not only more likely to get cancer, but more likely to die from it, according to a new study. Doctors already knew that certain hormone pills increased the risk of cancer, but the study, which followed 12,788 women, found that the cancer is also more likely to be advanced and deadly, the New York Times explains. The risks aren’t fully understood, but part of the problem is likely that increased breast density makes tumors harder to spot.
The hormones may also speed the growth of cancerous cells, or of the blood vessels they feed on. Until now, many doctors had assumed that women can safely take hormones for four to five years to reduce menopause symptoms. “I don’t think you can say that now,” says one oncologist. “I know some people have to take it because they can’t function, but the message now is that you really should try to stop.”