Hormone Replacement Therapy Not So Bad After All
According to a comprehensive review and statistical analysis of old research, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does not raise a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer or heart disease. That’s nearly the opposite conclusion arrived at about a decade ago, when it was announced that taking female hormones to relieve the symptoms of falling estrogen during menopause was linked to greater risks of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Millions of women stopped taking HRT in response to those earlier findings. But many women still suffer severe symptoms related to the onset of menopause. For these women, replacement hormones offer relief from sleepless nights, and a vastly better quality of life. But doctors and patients alike have been reluctant to attempt HRT in most cases.
The Endocrine Society is a professional organization for doctors. At their annual meeting in March, attendees heard a presentation by lead investigator Khalid Benkhadra, MD, a research fellow at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Benkhadra presented the results of an exhaustive new analysis—a meta-analysis and review of many high-quality studies of the issue, gathered over the past few decades.
“At present, we do not have evidence that hormone therapy in postmenopausal women increases mortality or protects from death compared with women who never used hormones,” said Benkhadra. This is somewhat startling news, given that revelations about a decade ago nearly caused a panic among women. Millions had been taking HRT for years. Many abandoned the practice in light of reports that it could adversely affect a women’s risk of dying from various causes.
The new statistical analysis of results from many previous studies indicates that this increased risk was a sort of mirage. The new analysis relied only on high-quality studies. These studies were double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, in which women were randomly assigned to receive either hormones, an inactive placebo, or no treatment at all. Only studies of six months duration or longer were considered. A “sub-group analysis” showed that the type or types of hormones used did not make any difference regarding risk of death, either.
Benkhadra told his colleagues that the new study should put to rest any fears about prescribing HRT for postmenopausal women who could benefit from the practice. While it doesn’t prolong life either, HRT doesn’t shorten women’s lives. But it does help relieve symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, irritability, and other symptoms of menopause.
Newswise website. Articles page. Accessed Mar. 9, 2015 from: http://www.newswise.com/articles/menopausal-hormone-therapy-does-not-affect-the-risk-of-dying-study-shows