Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been given a bad rap over the last decade or so. Women are advised to use HRT at their own risk. However, new research presented in The Journal of the American Medical Association is challenging the notion that certain HRT therapy not only does not cause breast cancer and heart attacks, but may actually reduce the risk.
Women who had a hysterectomy and used estrogen-only therapy had a 23% lower incidence of breast cancer compared with a placebo group. Most HRT is a combination of estrogen and progestin and is known to increase breast cancer risk. Progestin is added when a woman still has her uterus to protect it from the harmful effects of estrogen.
The study also showed a significant decrease in the number of heart attacks in women in their 50s when taking estrogen-only therapy. However, as women aged the risk of heart attack appeared to increase their risk when taking estrogen-only therapy.
The take away here is that there may be some potential benefit to estrogen-only therapy in post menopausal women, but researchers need to figure out a way to harness the benefits of estrogen without the potential risks to the uterus for women who have not had a hysterectomy.