When it comes to hormone replacement therapy, there's a dissent. Some would say outright it leads to early death, while some would reject such a notion, arguing the process isn't as harmful as originally perceived.
A new study weighs in on that debate.
Replacing Hormones: Harmful Or Not?
Hormone replacement therapy, in which a combination of estrogen and progestin replaces what the body stops making after menopause, was once seen as the one-stop solution for menopause — doctors believed it could relieve hot flashes, night sweats, and prevent problems that occur with aging, such as heart complications and frail bones.
But later studies discovered that replacement hormones could increase the risk of breast cancer, and that they couldn't actually protect the heart.
Yet, there's a new study on the subject that suggests hormone replacement therapy isn't dangerous.
In the original Women's Health Initiative hormone trials, more than 27,000 women were each assigned either a placebo, a combination of hormones, or just estrogen for those who'd had a hysterectomy. They were observed and followed for nearly two decades, checking for signs of chronic diseases. The women took replacement hormones for five to seven years.
No Increased Risk Of Death Associated With Hormone Therapy
In the current study, published in JAMA, a research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital, led by Dr. JoAnn Manson, looked at longer-term data from the Women's Health Initiative study and discovered no increased risk of death from all causes, or from cancer or heart problems in particular, that were associated with hormone therapy.
A total of 7,489 women died during the study period. But the death rates were the same among those who took hormones and those who did not, the team reports.
"Women seeking treatment for distressing hot flashes, night sweats or other menopausal symptoms may find the mortality results reassuring," said Dr. Manson.
Many women have been apprehensive of resorting to hormone replacement therapy after menopause symptoms occur because they fear they'll die prematurely. But the current study suggests there's nothing to be afraid of. The research team looked at 27,347 women ages 50 to 79 who joined the original trials between 1993 and 1998 and were followed up through 2014.
The current study might quell serious concerns about hormone replacement therapy that were brought out by the initial results of the original trials. But even if taking a combination of estrogen and progestin does cause higher risk of breast cancer or heart attacks, improved screening and treatment now mean such tumors are not likely to be fatal, according to Dr. Melissa McNeil, a women's health researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.
In short, the current study seems to suggest that hormone replacement therapy is safe, effective, and won't lead to premature death among menopausal women.