Harvard Women's Health Watch

Hormone therapy not recommended for chronic disease prevention

A follow-up to the landmark Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study finds that hormone therapy with estrogen, with or without a progestin, is not appropriate for preventing chronic conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia. However, this research, which was published in October 2013 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, finds that short-term hormone use may be fine for managing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in certain women. And in women who've had a hysterectomy and who no longer have a uterus, estrogen therapy alone may offer some protection against breast cancer. The WHI was halted in 2002, when Dr. JoAnn Manson of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and her colleagues discovered that combined hormone therapy (estrogen plus progestin) increased the risk of heart disease and stroke in older women (average age 63). Many authorities now agree that in women entering menopause who don't have heart disease, hormone therapy does not increase heart disease risk when it's used to relieve symptoms of menopause.

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