HRT - benefits outweigh risks

By Deborah Condon

The benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the risks in women who have recently begun the menopause, the results of new research indicates.

According to the findings, the risk of death is 39% lower among women who begin HRT before the age of 60, compared to women who do not avail of the therapy.

A number of major studies have been carried out on this topic in recent years. One carried out by the American Woman's Health Initiative indicated that women who used HRT were at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. The study involved over 16,000 women and was abandoned early as the findings were considered so disturbing. The results led to millions of women worldwide stopping the treatment.

However just last month, a group of researchers from Yale University heavily criticised that study, describing it as fundamentally flawed. They insisted that the study's participants were not representative of women taking HRT, as most had gone through the menopause long before the study began, despite the fact that research indicates that a woman needs to avail of HRT sooner rather than later to experience the full benefits.

These latest findings are based on an analysis of other previously published studies. Altogether 30 clinical trials involving 27,000 women were analysed.

The results indicate that once taken early on in menopause (no later than two years into menopause), mortality risk is reduced. Furthermore HRT may help prevent and perhaps even halt the progression of cardiovascular disease when started early enough.

The researchers acknowledge however that once heart disease has developed, HRT has no effect in reversing the process.

"The beneficial effects of HRT in younger menopausal women appear to be due to HRT's ability to increase high density lipoproteins ('good' cholesterol) and reduce low density lipoproteins ('bad' cholesterol), glucose, weight, insulin levels, the incidence of new-onset diabetes and a handful of other risk factors for heart diseases", said Dr Shelley Salpeter of Stanford University's School of Medicine.

The researchers conclude that the decision to take HRT should be made on an individual case-by-case basis, taking into consideration age, the degree of bothersome menopausal symptoms and underlying health risk factors.

Details of these findings are published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


Patricia(patriciawinders) - 16/06/2005 20:28

have been taking livial for 3 yrs. prempack for 7 yrs before that. I recently read that livial possibly increases the risk of uterine cancer. any comments?

Nickname: to be used for all future posts.
Notification: Tick this box if you wish to receive e-mail notifications of further posts on this topic