Several very large clinical studies conducted over the past few years have indicated that use of the combination estrogen-progestin hormone replacement called HRT is associated with a significant increased risk for post-menopausal breast cancer. The use of hormone-based therapies increases the lifetime exposure to hormones, a known risk factor. In parallel with decreased use of HRT over the past decade, for the first time decreased rates of breast cancer incidence are being reported in the United States among white, post-menopausal women.
If you are experiencing hot flashes and other symptoms commonly associated with menopause, be sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet and minimize intake of alcohol and caffeine. At the same time, eating vegetables rich in plant estrogens (including soy products like tofu) as part of a balanced diet, along with regular exercise, has been shown to mitigate some of the effects of menopause.
Do not rely on over-the counter hormone substitutes, even those labeled as "natural" as these products may also contain high levels of hormones or hormone-like substances in the absence of the other protective substances found in whole vegetables and vegetable products. Be sure to discuss any herbal or "natural" supplements you may be thinking of taking with your medical care provider, as sometimes there are interactions between these substances and other medications you may be taking.
If you do decide to use HRT, try estrogen-only formulations and use HRT for as brief a time as possible.