Harvard Women's Health Watch

Hormone therapy update

How to make sense of the new recommendations on postmenopausal hormone therapy.

A decade ago, women used hormone therapy (HT) not only to relieve menopause symptoms, but also to prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia. That was before results of the landmark Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study were released in 2002, revealing that taking estrogen and progestin after menopause may increase women's risk for stroke, heart disease, blood clots, and breast cancer. Today, only about 5% of postmenopausal women are still on these hormones, and their reasons for taking them have changed.

"The pendulum has swung from long-term hormone therapy for chronic disease prevention in the 1980s and 1990s, to what is currently short-term treatment for menopausal symptoms," says Dr. JoAnn Manson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a lead WHI investigator.

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