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New Study: Hormone Therapy Should Not Be Used for Some Women’s Conditions

Filed October 2nd, 2013 Laurie

Hormone therapy should not be used to prevent conditions like heart disease and dementia in women, a new study confirms.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, the study’s lead author from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from about 300,000 women and discovered that the risk of serious health problems increased while the subjects were taking hormones. The analysis confirmed the results of previous studies, Reuters reported.

“The findings suggest that hormone therapy is a reasonable option for short-term treatment of menopausal symptoms in early menopause but should not be used for long-term chronic disease prevention,” Manson told Reuters. The report, which looked at women who were part of the original Women’s Health Initiative studies, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Those studies were large, randomized trials of hormone therapy that were stopped early when it became clear that women taking estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progesterone had higher rates of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, strokes, and other health problems, according to Reuters.

Manson and fellow researchers analyzed data recorded during the trials and for six to eight years after women stopped taking the hormones. Approximately 27,347 women between 50 and 79 years of age were included in the trials, and were randomly picked to receive either estrogen and progesterone or estrogen alone, or a placebo. The trials lasted six to seven years before they were stopped beginning in 2002. Women were then followed until 2010. It soon became obvious that taking estrogen plus progesterone outweighed the benefits, Reuters reported.

Researchers found that hormone could account for six additional cases of heart disease per 10,000 women each year during the trial. Estrogen was tied to about 11 extra strokes per 10,000 women per year. This information lead the scientists to conclude that estrogen plus progesterone or estrogen alone should not be used to prevent chronic disease. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has also recommended against taking hormone therapy for the prevention of chronic disease, according to Reuters.

“Ultimately, every woman should discuss their individual risk profile and the best way to manage their symptoms with their care provider to decide what the best choice is for them,” Dr. Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, told Reuters in an email.

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