Hormone replacement therapy and mammographic density: a systematic literature review

Shadi Azam, Katja Kemp Jacobsen, Arja R Aro, Elsebeth Lynge, Zorana Jovanovic Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


PURPOSE: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to reduce climacteric symptoms of menopause and prevent osteoporosis; however, it increases risk of breast cancer. Mammographic density (MD) is also a strong risk factor for breast cancer. We conducted this review to investigate the association between HRT use and MD and to assess the effect of different HRT regimens on MD.

METHODS: Two of authors examined articles published between 2002 and 2019 from PubMed, Embase, and OVID using Covidence systematic review platform. Any disagreements were discussed until consensus was reached. The protocol used in this review was created in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Quality of each eligible study was assessed using the Oxford Center for Evidence-Based Medicine (OCEBM) hierarchy.

RESULTS: Twenty-two studies met the inclusion criteria. Six studies showed that using estrogen plus progestin (E + P) HRT was associated with higher MD than estrogen alone. Four studies reported that continuous estrogen plus progestin (CEP) users had higher MD than sequential estrogen plus progestin (SEP) and estrogen alone users. However, two studies showed that SEP users had slightly higher MD than CEP users and estrogen alone users.

CONCLUSIONS: Epidemiological evidence is rather consistent suggesting that there is a positive association between HRT use and MD with the highest increase in MD among current users, and CEP users. Our results suggest that due to increase in MD and masking effect, current E + P users may require additional screening procedures, shorter screening intervals, or using advanced imaging techniques.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)555-579
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • disease, health science and nursing


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