Hormone Therapy ‘Less Risky if Started Early’

Women who start taking hormone therapy within 10 years of starting menopause may run less risk of developing heart disease than those who begin treatment later, a study published this week said.

“Overall, hormone therapy did not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD),” said the study after a secondary analysis of findings from two clinical trials.

“However, the farther a woman was from the onset of menopause when she began hormone therapy, the greater her risk of CHD due to hormone therapy appeared to be,” added the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The first clinical trial by the team at the Women’s Health Initiative in Bethesda, Maryland, involved 10,739 women who had undergone a hysterectomy, some of whom had been given estrogen treatments and some a placebo.

The second trial was made up of 16,608 menopausal women who had not had a hysterectomy, but had been given either a placebo or a hormone therapy treatment of estrogen and a powerful progesterone-like compound.

“The analyses also suggest that the increased risk in heart disease due to hormone therapy in older women is primarily in those who also have hot flashes and night sweats,” the study said.

The risk of mortality was reduced in those women aged 50 to 59, while the dangers of developing heart disease were higher in women aged over 70 who started taking hormone treatments.

“The absence of excess absolute risk of CHD and the suggestion of reduced total mortality in younger women offers some reassurance that hormones remain a reasonable option for the short-term treatment of menopausal symptoms,” the study said.

“But (it) does not necessarily imply an absence of harm over prolonged periods of hormone use.”

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