Hormone-replacement therapy: current thinking

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Abstract

Abstract | For several decades, the role of hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) has been debated. Early observational data on HRT showed many benefits, including a reduction in coronary heart disease (CHD) and mortality. More recently, randomized trials, including the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), studying mostly women many years after the the onset of menopause, showed no such benefit and, indeed, an increased risk of CHD and breast cancer, which led to an abrupt decrease in the use of HRT. Subsequent reanalyzes of data from the WHI with age stratification, newer randomized and observational data and several meta-analyses now consistently show reductions in CHD and mortality when HRT is initiated soon after menopause. HRT also significantly decreases the incidence of various symptoms of menopause and the risk of osteoporotic fractures, and improves quality of life. In younger healthy women (aged 50-60 years), the risk-benefit balance is positive for using HRT, with risks considered rare. As no validated primary prevention strategies are available for younger women (<60 years of age), other than lifestyle management, some consideration might be given to HRT as a prevention strategy as treatment can reduce CHD and all-cause mortality. Although HRT should be primarily oestrogen-based, no particular HRT regimen can be advocated.

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