It’s no wonder we’re confused. First it’s good; then it’s bad. Now it’s up to you.
Hormone replacement therapy has had more media makeovers than Liz Taylor, and it continues to grab attention here and there.
The latest, and highly credible, statement on the issue is from an international roundtable of medical experts convened by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR). The purpose of this gathering of experts, which represented various specialties, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and cancer, was to take yet another objective and rigorous look at the evidence regarding hormone replacement therapy, and to make recommendations as to its use and safety. The results of this discussion just came out in the Journal of Women’s Health.
This roundtable is a good effort to shed some objective light on the risks and benefits of an issue that’s been hotly debated for over ten years now, ever since the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) prematurely ended its groundbreaking study of women receiving hormone therapy in 2002 because of a high incidence of breast cancer and cardiovascular complications.
The problem, however, is that hormone therapy (HT) is still the only effective, FDA-approved treatment for menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal changes. Recently two non-hormonal drugs were just nixed by an FDA advisory panel because they were viewed as ineffective.
Ever since the WHI results were released, the pendulum has been swinging wildly with each new medical release or research report. And while this latest SWHR roundtable really moves the chess pieces very little, it does solidly reaffirm positions held by the North American Menopause Society.
(In fact, NAMS had released its latest position statement on hormone treatment barely a month earlier.)
What the roundtable did add, however, is something I strongly advocate: Give women solid information about their treatment options and let them make informed decisions about their own health.
Their findings include:
- In younger, postmenopausal women with menopausal symptoms, the benefits of HT outweigh the risks;
- HT is the most effective treatment for osteoporosis and should be considered for the prevention of osteoporosis, especially among at risk women;
- Contrary to popular misconceptions, HT for early, postmenopausal women does not increase the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) and may even reduce it;
- HT does not increase total mortality rates and may, in fact reduce them.
Here’s how the SWHR roundtable puts it: “It’s time to put HT back on the table so that women can discuss with their providers the option of symptom relief and possible long term health benefits.”
Amen to that.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.