October 26, 2010
Your biggest lingering concerns explained.
Almost no topic in modern medicine has been as controversial or confusing as hormone-replacement therapy. The issue got even more confusing last week thanks to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and based on data collected for the ongoing federal Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that found that women taking estrogen and progesterin had an increased risk of breast cancer. As a result, most people have more questions than answers when it comes to HRT. “I’ve gotten more than 150 e-mails and calls from women as well as doctors” wanting more details, says coauthor JoAnn E. Manson, professor of women’s health at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Here, the answers to the eight questions Manson has gotten most often:
What about women who take estrogen only?
This particular study focused only on women who take a combination of estrogen and progestin or progesterone. It did not include any women who have had a hysterectomy and take estrogen alone (since they don’t need progesterone to protect them from uterine cancer.) Earlier findings from the WHI indicated that women who take estrogen alone saw their breast-cancer risk decrease over the first seven years of use, although they remained at higher risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart disease. (Women who take most types of combined HT are also at risk for those latter three conditions.)