Hormone pills don't shorten life

Hormone pills don't shorten life

Hormones were once considered a fountain of youth for menopausal women, but millions stopped taking them after the 2002 landmark study revealed hormone therapy could increase the risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart disease.

The same research that originally raised fears of cancer and heart disease linked to HRT has now found that it led to no extra deaths over two decades as the health risks and benefits cancelled each other out. "But for a woman waking up nightly from hot flashes or night sweats, for a woman going for days without any quality sleep, that trade-off may seem much more reasonable".

"In this new analysis, we found that there was no association between hormone therapy and all-cause mortality during either the treatment period or the long-term follow-up of these trials", lead author JoAnn Manson, chief of division of preventive medicine at the BWH. These findings provide support for clinical guidelines endorsing the use of hormone therapy for recently menopausal women to manage bothersome hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

But an 18-year follow-up on these women has shown that there wasn't an increase to risks of death and other disease on those who used the hormones. "We now think about an appropriate dose for the appropriate length of time for the appropriate woman dealing with the (menopause) symptoms that she has". "Mortality rates are the ultimate "bottom line" when assessing the net effect of a medication on serious and life-threatening health outcomes".

According to the study, menopause, where the level of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone fall, accelerates the decline in lung function.

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The landmark research, backed by the USA government, began in the early 1990s to rigorously test hormones' effects in older women randomly assigned to take the pills or dummy treatment. Some earlier follow-ups suggested no increased risk of death in hormone users, but Manson said this is the first to focus only on deaths from various causes.

Women who took estrogen for an average of seven years or combination estrogen and progesterone therapy for an average of five years had no increased risk of death after 18 years of follow-up, compared with women given an inactive placebo, the researchers found.

Overall, nearly 7,500 women died, which was about 27 percent each in the hormone and dummy pill groups. After that, many doctors became reluctant to prescribe hormone therapy for menopause symptoms.

However, among women who initiated hormone therapy in their 60s and 70s, no effect on death rate was observed. Additional research on the long-term benefits and risks of these newer treatments is needed, the researchers say.

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