Women Hormone Dilemma

Women Hormone Dilemma

One new study says long term hormone replacement isn't as safe as once thought, then another study says it's ok. Both were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The first and larger study, from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, indicates that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involving a combination of estrogen and progestin for more than five years significantly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer.

The second study from the University of Washington at Seattle compare 500 women, ages 50-64, who had newly diagnosed breast cancer with a control group of similar but healthy women. This study found no link between breast cancer and hormone use. Here, in fact, women who has used hormones for eight years or more seemed to have less risk of breast cancer than women who had never taken the hormones.

Estrogen has significant benefits for postmenopausal women in lowering risks of heart disease and osteoporosis, along with easing discomfort of menopause and keeping the body more youthful. But estrogen only therapy is associated with a greater risk of breast cancer. The combination of progestin and estrogen for therapy was hoped to be a safer treatment than estrogen only therapy.

The Boston study puts the cutoff point at five years of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), after which breast cancer risk increases significantly. Many women may use the therapy longer, especially if they go through menopause early.

Research continue, of course. Meanwhile, postmenopausal women and their doctors need to weight the benefits against the possible risks.

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