Women go through menopause when they stop menstruating, usually between the ages of 45 and 55.
Women that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats in no case may more likely to die prematurely than women who are not hormones, a new study suggests.
Many women are reluctant to use hormones for the symptoms of menopause since 2002, when the federal government funded Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study linked the treatments with man-made versions of the female hormones estrogen and progestin to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
The current study, but looked at the longer term data from the WHI study and found no increased risk of death from all causes or from cancer or cardiovascular problems in particular, related to hormones.
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“Women seeking treatment for distressing hot flashes, night sweats or other symptoms of the menopause the mortality results are reassuring,” said lead study author Dr. JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Women go through menopause when they stop menstruating, usually between the ages of 45 and 55. If the ovaries curb the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the years prior to menopause and after, women with symptoms ranging from irregular menstruation and vaginal dryness to mood swings and insomnia.
For the study, researchers looked at data on 27,347 women ages 50 to 79 who, in the two WHI studies between 1993 and 1998, and were followed by means of 2014. A trial tested estrogen only against placebo, or dummy pill, while the other trial tested estrogen combined with a progestin.
Women were 63 years old on average when they joined the trials, and have already been through the menopause. She took hormones or a placebo for five to seven years, and were followed for a total of 18 total.
During the study period, the 7,489 women died.
The mortality rates were similar, at approximately 27 percent among women who took hormones and women who did not, researchers report in JAMA.
Younger women in the study appeared to have better survival chances with HRT. Over the first five to seven years, when the women were randomly assigned to hormones or placebo, the mortality rates were approximately 30 percent lower among women 50 to 59 so they took HRT than when they are not.
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For women who started hormones in their 60s or’ 70s, but there was no real difference in mortality rates depending on whether they have the treatment or a placebo during the first years of the study.
After 18 years, including both the treatment period and a decade or more of the follow-up of women age when they joined the study no longer showed a significant effect on the mortality rates.
A limitation of the study is that the WHI is not to different doses of the hormone pills, and the results may vary for other dosage, or other types of therapy, such as gels or creams, or patches on the skin.
Still, the current study ease concerns raised by the previous results of the WHI studies to an increased risk of breast cancer or heart attacks may translate into a higher long-term mortality, said Dr. Melissa McNeil, author of an accompanying editorial and a women’s health researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.
Taking a combination of estrogen and progestin is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, but advances in screening and treatment, as the WHI to start now, means these tumors are not likely to be fatal, McNeil said by e-mail.
With the additional years of follow-up, it also appears that the increased risk of heart attack associated with HRT in the first results of the WHI studies were limited to older women, McNeil added.
“Hormone therapy has been in and out of favor – the first one was good for all women in the menopause, then it was dangerous for all women,” McNeil said. The take-home message now is that for the right patient, hormone therapy is safe and effective.”