Increased Cardiovascular Mortality Risk in Women Discontinuing Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy

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Current guidelines recommend annual discontinuation of postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT) to evaluate whether a woman could manage without the treatment. The impact of HT on cardiovascular health has been widely studied, but it is not known how the withdrawal of HT affects cardiovascular risk.


We evaluated the risk of cardiac or stroke death after the discontinuation of HT.

Design, Patients, Interventions, and Main Outcome Measures:

Altogether 332 202 Finnish women discontinuing HT between 1994 and 2009 (data from National Reimbursement register) were followed up from the discontinuation date to death due to cardiac cause (n = 3177) or stroke (n = 1952), or to the end of 2009. The deaths, retrieved from the national Cause of Death Register, were compared with the expected number of deaths in the age-standardized background population. In a subanalysis we also compared HT stoppers with HT users.


Within the first posttreatment year, the risk of cardiac death was significantly elevated (standardized mortality ratio; 95% confidence interval 1.26; 1.16–1.37), whereas follow-up for longer than 1 year was accompanied with a reduction (0.75; 0.72–0.78). The risk of stroke death in the first posttreatment year was increased (1.63; 1.47–1.79), but follow-up for longer than 1 year was accompanied with a reduced risk (0.89; 0.85–0.94). The cardiac (2.30; 2.12–2.50) and stroke (2.52; 2.28–2.77) death risk elevations were even higher when compared with HT users. In women who discontinued HT at age younger than 60 years, but not in women aged 60 years or older, the cardiac mortality risk was elevated (1.94; 1.51–2.48).


Increased cardiovascular death risks question the safety of annual HT discontinuation practice to evaluate whether a woman could manage without HT.

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