Background: Urogenital symptoms are common among postmenopausal women. Such symptoms may be alleviated by low-potency oestrogen formulations administered orally or vaginally. Although low-potency oestrogen formulations are assumed to have few, if any, adverse effects on the endometrium, risk of endometrial neoplasia has not been quantified.
Methods: In a nationwide population-based case-control study in Sweden of endometrial cancer among postmenopausal women, we obtained detailed information on hormone replacement from 789 cases of endometrial cancer and 3368 population controls. In a histopathological review, 80 cases were reclassified as having endometrial atypical hyperplasia. Odds ratios and 95% CI were calculated with unconditional logistic regression.
Findings: After multivariate adjustment, oral use of oestriol 1-2 mg daily increased the relative risk of endometrial cancer and endometrial atypical hyperplasia: the odds ratios for at least 5 years of use compared with never use were 3.0 (95% CI 2.0-4.4) and 8.3 (4.0-17.4), respectively. The association was stronger for well-differentiated cancers and those with limited invasion. The excess relative risk was lost rapidly after cessation of treatment. Only weak associations were observed between vaginal application of low-potency oestrogen formulations and relative risk of endometrial neoplasia.
Interpretation: Oral, but not vaginal, treatment with low-potency oestrogen formulations increases the relative risk of endometrial neoplasia. Thus close surveillance of patients is needed, and addition of a progestagen should be considered.