A domestic task force has recommended against menopausal women using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to prevent potential future chronic disease.
According to a CNN.com report this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has determined there are more risks than benefits to HRT when used by women who’ve already entered menopause but not to treat symptoms caused by the life stage such as hot flashes. The recommendation concerns the use of estrogen, alone, or that combined with another hormone, progestin.
The task force does not make the same assessment on HRT safety for women under the age of 50 or for women using estrogen, progestin, or both to treat common symptoms of menopause. HRT has been prescribed to menopausal women as a preventative measure in the treatment of possible future health problems like heart disease but the recommendations from the task force are against that. The panel said there is no evidence that using HRT in women with no menopausal symptoms has not proven effective in the prevention of those diseases.
The task force’s suggestions have been published in Annals of Internal Medicine. The study is based on the findings of nine previously finished clinical trials and although the findings that HRT is not effective in the prevention of future disease, the new report is designed to present some clarity to women who may still be using both hormones for these indications.
HRT had been used for years by women because physicians believed the hormones would help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia. About a decade ago, according to the report, a wide-ranging study known as Women’s Health Initiative put an almost complete halt to using HRT in this way as it was proving to have no clinical benefits and was actually putting women at greater risk of harm from the conditions the hormones were supposed to be preventing.
That study and others have linked use of estrogen and progestin with causing stroke, dementia, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), urinary incontinence, and gall bladder disease. There has also been associations between taking both hormones and the development of life-threatening breast cancer. Taking just estrogen also has been linked to those complications, save for the risk of breast cancer, which hasn’t been linked to taking estrogen, exclusively.
The task force admits its recommendations are mostly for women experiencing menopause and that younger women may not be prone to the same risk factors if they’re using HRT to prevent or control moderate or severe hot flashes. The average age of women analyzed by the previously conducted clinical trials was 64 years, almost a decade after they had entered menopause. The recommendations from the task force are generally directed at older women who may be wondering if their HRT is working to prevent the diseases or complications it was prescribed to defend.