Dangers of HRT - Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause

The U.N.'s cancer research agency added hormone HRT pills to the list of substances that can cause cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer said that based on consistent evidence from studies in recent years, it was reclassifying hormonal menopause therapy from "possibly carcinogenic" to "carcinogenic."

HRT, once prescribed to millions of women to ease the immediate symptoms of menopause and to prevent osteoporosis and heart disease, has been found to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, blood clots and hearing loss.

In a startling turnaround, breast cancer rates in the United States dropped dramatically in 2003, and experts said they believe it is because many women stopped taking hormone pills.

The 7.2 percent decline came a year after a big federal study linked menopause hormones to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other problems. Within months, millions of women stopped taking estrogen and progestin pills.

A new analysis of federal cancer statistics, presented 12-13-06 at a breast cancer conference in Texas, revealed the drop in tumors.

About 200,000 cases of breast cancer had been expected in 2003; the drop means that about 14,000 fewer women actually were diagnosed with the disease.

The largest study ever (Sept. 2006) to analyze the hearing of women on hormone replacement therapy has found that women who take the most common form of HRT have a hearing loss of 10 to 30 percent more compared to similar women who have not had the therapy.

It�s as if the usual age-related hearing loss in women whose HRT included progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, was accelerated compared to women taking estrogen alone or women not taking HRT. On average, women who received progestin had the hearing of women five to 10 years older.

The Canadian Cancer Society issued a position statement in January 2004, urging women to avoid using combination HRT if they can help it. The society suggested women not take combined estrogen-progestin therapy unless they are suffering severe menopausal symptoms that have not responded to any other form of treatment. They recommend trying things like exercise, relaxation techniques and vitamin E supplements first.

"Our position is that women avoid combination HRT, because of the breast cancer risk," said Heather Logan, director of cancer control policy.

Do you want to double your risk for Alzheimers disease, heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer?

If so, all you have to do is go to your doctor and begin taking HRT - Hormone Replacement Therapy for menopause.
Global HRT sales were worth 3.8 billion dollars in 2001. Sales fell to 3.3 billion dollars in 2002, as medical research began disclosing the the dangers of HRT. The medical pharmaceutical establishment has a vested interest in downplaying these research results.

Professor Valerie Beral, the leader of the most recent study, said: "We estimate that, over the past decade, use of HRT by UK women aged 50 to 64 has resulted in an extra 20,000 breast cancer cases - combined therapy accounting for 15,000 of these."

According to the Committee on Safety of Medicines, long-term HRT users should discuss therapy with their doctors. But a commentary in The Lancet by doctors at Nijmegen University in the Netherlands says: "This group of users should discontinue HRT use as soon as possible."

Two medical studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that giving older women hormones does not protect them from heart disease. One study found it increased the risk of a heart attack by 81 percent in the first year.

Older women on hormone replacement therapy may be doubling their risk of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers say women who start taking combined estrogen and progestin past the age of 65 are more likely to suffer from mild and severe dementia. The findings come from a study of 4,500 American women. The trial was part of a larger study abandoned last year when early results showed that combined HRT increased the risk of heart disease, clots and stroke.

Dr. Sally Shumaker, a researcher of public health sciences at Wake Forest, said: "Because of the potential harm and lack of benefit found, we recommend that older postmenopausal women not take the combination hormone therapy to prevent dementia and we hope that doctors will incorporate what we've learned in their recommendations to women."

Taking combination hormone replacement therapy after menopause can double a woman's risk for heart attacks in the first year of treatment. That's the latest of the findings from the Women's Health Initiative study, which has brought a lot of bad news about HRT.

The FDA launched an education campaign about hormone replacement therapy on September 9, 2003, saying women are confused about recent warnings showing it should only be used in the lowest possible doses for the shortest possible time.

It is very important that women realize that this beneficial therapy also carries significant risks. Our recommendation is that if you choose to use hormone therapy for hot flashes or vaginal dryness, or if you prefer it to other treatments to prevent thin bones, take the lowest dose for the least duration required to provide relief.

Researchers stopped a large study of HRT in July 2002 when it became clear the therapy increased the risk of heart disease, cancer and blood clots. A number of studies since then have supported those results.

The new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 8,506 women taking the HRT drug Prempro and 8,102 women taking a placebo. The women on HRT had a 24 percent higher risk for heart attacks overall, the study found. But during the first year of HRT their risk was 81 percent higher compared to those in the placebo group. Researchers also found that HRT compounded the already elevated heart attack risk of older women and women with high cholesterol.

A woman's body produces less estrogen during and after menopause, which may affect her bone strength. The WHI study showed that women taking HRT had 34% fewer hip fractures and 24% fewer fractures than women not receiving hormones.

However, the short-term use of HRT to relieve symptoms at the time of menopause does little to prevent fractures in women when they reach 75-80 years of age. Women who take estrogen to maintain bone density must continue taking estrogen because the beneficial effects on bones disappear when it is discontinued.

Instead, supplemental calcium and increasing Vitamin D intake may be recommended for some women to help prevent and treat loss of bone mass. Other lifestyle changes, such as adding an exercise regimen to your routine may help.

Gabriel Cousens, M.D., practicing internal medicine in Patagonia, Arizona, says, "Whenever possible, I prefer to use Maca therapy rather than hormone replacement therapy because HRT actually ages the body diminishing the hormone by reducing the production capability of the glands. Maca has proven to be very effective with menopausal patients in eliminating hot flashes and depression. It also increase energy levels. Sometimes I have started the patient on maca treatment with three capsules a day. In some cases I have increased the dosage to six capsules a day for full effectiveness."

Estrogen Products

Estrogen and Progestin ( Prempro(R) or Premarin (R) + Provera (R))
Pros: Reduces hot flashes and vaginal dryness. May slow bone loss in some women.
Cons: Causes breakthrough bleeding, mood swings, fluid retention. Significantly increases risk of breast and uterine cancer.

Selective Estrogen Reuptake Modulators ( SERMs, notably Evista (R))
Pros: Unlike older HRT drugs, SERMs do not seem to boost risk of breast cancer.
Cons: Increases hot flashes, boosts risk for serious blood clots in the legs, lungs or eyes, especially for sedentary women. Can cause severe leg cramps.

Estrogen Used Vaginally (Vagifem (R), Estring (R), Estrace (R))
Pros: Reduces vaginal dryness.
Cons: Has no effect on hot flashes. Headache, abdominal pain and vaginal pain / irritation have been reported.

Estrogen Patches ( Estracomb (R), Vivelle (R))
Pros: Convenient drug delivery through skin patch. Reduces hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Cons: Can cause skin irritation at the patch site. May cause nausea and vomiting. Other side effects are similar to those from HRT pills: breakthrough bleeding, fluid retention and mood swings.

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