Estrogen therapy risks

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 11th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Hormone replacement therapy, or H-R-T, is a complex subject. But the idea behind it is profoundly simple.

H-R-T compensates for the reduced production of sex hormones that women experience during menopause.

By boosting hormone levels, H-R-T can prevent hot flashes, night sweats and other discomforts.

Unfortunately, serious complications such as heart attack and stroke strike about one in every thousand users.

A recent article in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine explored another risk dangerous blood clots associated with an H-R-T medication called conjugated equine estrogen.

Researchers with the massive U-S study called the Women’s Health Initiative examined the medication’s effects on almost eleven-thousand women who’d undergone a hysterectomy.

About half took conjugated equine estrogen. The others received a placebo.

During follow-up, one-hundred-eleven on estrogen therapy developed blood clots, versus eighty-six in the placebo group.

Researchers assessed how many clotting events occurred during the total number of years the women were tracked.

Among the group taking the hormone, there were three clotting events for every one-thousand years of use. Among placebo users, it was two-point-two events per thousand years.

So for a woman using conjugated equine estrogen for ten years, the odds of suffering a blood clot increased, but only by eight one-thousandths of a percentage point. That result also could simply be due to chance.

Bottom line? For some women, the benefits may well be worth the risk.

But because H-R-T treatment is tailored to individual patients, here’s another simple idea… women interested in it should consult their physicians.