The September 2009 issue of Health magazine had a great article concerning hormones entitled, “Hormones: What You Must Know Now” by Catherine Guthrie. The article gives a great overview of the history of hormone replacement therapy, a description of the top three hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), and a description of bioidenticals.
My main learning from the article is the suggestion that each woman should take an individual approach in deciding about hormones. Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, medical director of the Midlife Health Center and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia, is quoted as suggesting that each woman consider her own risks and benefits.
Factors to consider when making your decision include:
- Cancer history
- Age (younger than age 60 and within 10 years of menopause is best)
- Intensity and frequency of symptoms
- How much symptoms interfere with quality.
The Health article notes that if a woman has a personal history of breast cancer, hormone replacement therapy is not recommended since some evidence exists that extra estrogen may trigger otherwise-dormant breast cancer cells. However, if you don’t have a breast cancer risk, you might find that you can benefit from low-dose hormone therapy. Furthermore, younger women are less likely to experience harmful side effects, according to the Health article. The article also notes that the Federal Drug Administration strongly recommends that if you decide on hormone replacement therapy, you should take the lowest effective dosage for the shortest period possible. “The recent study linking HRT to ovarian cancer supports the short-and-sweet approach: Hormone users saw their risks drop to nonuser levels after being off of hormones for two years,” Guthrie wrote.
The Health article also suggests that you should find a doctor who will work with you to determine what works specifically in your case since therapies tend to effect individuals differently. The article suggests searching for a doctor with special training in women’s hormones, such as a Certified Menopause Practitioner (Menopause.org).
Additionally, a sidebar to the Health article notes that women’s hormones can be impacted by endocrine disruptors that are available in what you eat, drink, breathe, and use. These disruptors can be found in:
- Tap water. Pesticides and herbicides may be in the groundwater, thus impacting your drinking supply. To avoid these, buy a pitcher or carbon-based filter that can be used under the sink or be mounted to the faucet to stop atrazine.
- Chemicals in cleaners, air fresheners, body soaps and lotions. These chemicals, which are often in the fresh and flowery smelling items, can be phthalates. The article notes that many major cosmetic companies are working to eliminate phthalates. To determine if they are in a product you can go to the CosmeticsDatabase.com.
- Polycarbonates – The experts disagree on whether to be concerned about polycarbonates. For protection, do not place plastics in the microwave or dishwasher since high temperatures increase the odds of these chemicals getting into your food. Use glass or ceramic containers instead.
- Meat – Some experts believe the hormones in meat can have an impact. If you’re concerned, you should spend your nutritional funds on organic or hormone-free foods.
The take-away from reading the Health article? I for one think this is one of those articles that middle-age women should tear out of the magazine (or at least copy) and then put it in your health file so you can keep it as a reference to discuss with your doctor during your annual visit. The article is really well-written and the information is priceless in helping you understand the debate about hormone replacement therapy and also in framing the issues so you can have a productive conversation with your doctor.
Published On: January 25, 2010