Hormone replacement therapy in BRCA mutation carriers: how shall we do no harm?

Hormones (Athens). 2023 Mar;22(1):19-23. doi: 10.1007/s42000-022-00427-1. Epub 2023 Jan 13.


Women with a BRCA mutation have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the only effective strategy to reduce this risk. Risk-reducing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO) is recommended between the ages of 35 and 40 for women carriers of BRCA1 and between the ages of 40 and 45 for women carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Most women undergo this procedure prior to their natural menopause subsequently developing an anticipated lack of hormones. This condition affects the quality of life and longevity, while it is more pronounced in women carrying a BRCA1 mutation compared to BRCA2 because they are likely to have surgery earlier. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the only strategy able to significantly compensate for the loss of ovarian hormone production and counteract menopausal symptoms. There is strong evidence that short-term HRT use does not increase the risk of breast cancer among women with a BRCA1 mutation. Few data are available on BRCA2 mutation carriers. Therefore, BRCA mutation carriers require careful counseling about the outcomes of their RRSO, including menopausal symptoms and/or the fear associated with HRT use.

Keywords: BRCA; HRT; RRSO.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Ovariectomy
  • Quality of Life
  • Salpingo-oophorectomy / methods