The Pros and Cons of Hormone Therapy

woman readingThe issue of hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms used to be a simple one. You had hot flashes, sleep disturbances, vaginal changes—you took hormones. Worried about your bones and heart—you took hormones.

All that changed, of course, in the summer of 2002 with the announcement of the results of part of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), the first-ever, long-term study of the effects of hormone therapy (HT) on postmenopausal women. One of the study's main goals was to investigate whether using estrogen (Premarin) or estrogen plus progestin (Prempro) as part of a hormone therapy regimen could prevent coronary heart disease in healthy women between the ages of 50 to 79. The investigators chose these two hormone products to study, because at the time they were the most-used form of hormone therapy. Researchers abruptly ended the Prempro arm three years early, because initial results showed an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots in the lungs and stroke in women taking hormone therapy.