Providing Perspective on Latest Hormone Therapy Research

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • The news about hormone therapy always makes me confused? Should women going through menopause use this therapy? Or should we avoid it?

    CBS News reported recently on a new study that found that any type of hormone therapy may raise a woman’s breast cancer risk if she uses the therapy for more than a decade. The study tracked the health of approximately 60,000 nurses.  Leader research Wendy Chen, an assistant professor in medicine at the Dana-Farber Center Institute in Boston, stated,  "What we found is that people should also be careful about longer-term use of estrogen-alone HT.”

    Dr. Chen and her research team found that breast cancer risk was 88 percent higher among women who took estrogen plus progesterone for a period of 10-15 years than women who didn’t use hormone therapy. "There's a continued increase in risk with longer durations of use and there does not appear to be a plateau," the scientist explained.

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    So what should you think about this study? The American Council on Science and Health pointed out that the length of time that women took hormone therapy was the essential piece of this study. The council noted that most current guidelines call for women to take hormone therapy for three to seven years.  “This most recent study is important, because it gives us a better sense of when hormone replacement therapy becomes a risk,” ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is quoted as saying on the council’s website. “However, HRT is still the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms available — and, provided a woman sticks to the recommended duration of treatment, there still appears to be very little risk involved. Furthermore, the benefits to bone health, in addition to the alleviation of uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, which can have a profoundly unpleasant effect on a woman’s lifestyle and well-being, are well-documented.”

    So if you’re considering hormone replacement therapy, I’d suggest using the new position therapy recently announced by The North American Menopause Society. That group recommends that women consider five points if they are interested in hormone therapy, which are:

    • Hormone therapy continues to the most effective treatment for the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats.  Many women can and do take hormone therapy safely.
    • Women who have had blood clots, heart disease, stroke or breast cancer should be very careful about taking hormone therapy. You really need to discuss your health condition with your doctor before starting hormone therapy.
    • There is a difference in how long you should take the different types of hormone therapy.  You may be able to take estrogen therapy for a longer period of time since researchers haven’t found any sign of an increased risk of breast cancer during the average treatment time of seven years. However, if you’re taking estrogen plus progestin therapy, you should consider the time you’re on this type of therapy since researchers have found an increased risk of breast cancer in those that use this therapy for more than three to five years.
    • The risk of heart disease will not increase for most healthy women below the age of 60 who take hormone therapy. While the risks of stroke and blood clots in the lungs do increase with hormone therapy, women in this age group face a lower risk since researchers have found that less than one in every 1000 women per year do have these issues when taking this therapy.
    • Women who take estrogen therapy delivered through the skin via a patch, cream, gel or spray, or through low-dose oral estrogen may have lower risks of blood clots and strokes than those who take standard doses of oral estrogen; however, all of the research confirming this finding is not yet available.

    Primary sources for this sharepost:
    American Council on Science and Health. (April 3, 2012). Another dose of HRT advice. New York, NY: American Council on Science and Health.
    CBS News. (April 2, 2012). Long-term hormone use ups breast cancer risk, even estrogen. New York, NY: CBS.
    The North American Menopause Society. (2012). Hormone therapy for women in 2012. Mayfield Heights, OH: The North American Menopause Society.

Published On: April 06, 2012