Study: Hormone Therapy Should Not be Used for Long-Term Disease Therapy

hormone_therapy_long_term_risksNew research indicates that hormone therapy, although helpful for some menopausal symptoms, should not be prescribed for long-term conditions such as dementia and heart disease.

The researchers reviewed data from 30,000 women and discovered that risks for serious health issues increased during hormone therapy, which confirms prior findings; however, the risk dropped when treatment was ceased, according to Reuters Health. Because of this, “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,” Dr. JoAnn Manson, the study’s lead author, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Reuters Health.

The new report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and reviewed findings for women who took part in the original Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) studies, according to Reuters Health. WHI studies were large, randomized trials of hormone therapy. The research was stopped prematurely when researchers found that women taking estrogen alone or an estrogen-progesterone combination experienced increased rates of ovarian and breast cancer, strokes, and other health issues.

Dr. Manson and her colleagues analyzed data from the trials and for six-eight years after the women ceased hormone therapy, Reuters Reported. A total of 27,347 U.S. women, between 50-79 years of age, were included and were randomly picked to receive hormone therapy: estrogen-progesterone, estrogen alone, or a placebo. The trials continued for six-seven years and were ceased in 2002, according to Reuters Health. The WHI revealed that risks tied to the estrogen-progesterone combination outweighed the benefits, according to the researchers, who noted that risks dropped in follow-up. Although the risk of developing breast cancer did remain in the combination group.

The researchers concluded that either of the hormone options should not be prescribed to prevent chronic disease, Reuters indicated. This advice is similar to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation that also warns against taking hormone therapy for chronic disease, Reuters Health reported. We previously wrote that prior analysis conducted by a federal task force also found that HRT risks outweighed its benefits, specifically in certain women and for certain reasons. That recommendation was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and was largely based on a revised review of the massive WHI.

Prior to release of study results in 2002 of the WHI, over 6 million women were taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications to treat the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and mood swings. The major study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and determined that some HRT medications significantly increased risks of stroke, blood clots, heart attacks, and breast cancer. The results were so alarming that the NIH canceled the study, citing risk to the study’s participants. WHI study researchers also suggested that many of the women who used the medications should quit and talk to their doctors about alternatives.

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