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One-Third of Menopausal Women Still Undecided About Using Hormone Replacement Therapy

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Dec. 10, 1999 (Minneapolis) -- If you're a woman in midlife and are still undecided about using hormone pills, you're not alone. According to a new study, one-third of women who are experiencing menopause have not made up their minds about using hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Another research team decided to find out why. The conclusions from both studies appear in the December edition of the journal Women's Health Issues.

"The vast majority of American women regard menopause as a natural part of growing older," write Andrea Z. LaCroix, PhD, and colleagues from Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound in Seattle. Twenty-seven million American women aged 40-54, and nearly 57 million aged 55 and older, face decisions about long-term HRT and alternative preventive strategies. "When it comes to considering the balance of risks and benefits for individual women, one size does not fit all," LaCroix says.

And for good reason. "The uncertainties about using HRT are numerous, and women's decisions are highly complex because of the varying risks, values, and preferences, and because the scientific evidence of benefits and risks continues to evolve," the researchers write. While some studies have shown that HRT reduces the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and colon cancer, other studies have shown hormone therapy increases the risk of uterine cancer. The relation of HRT to breast cancer risk remains uncertain.

However, women may not be getting the information on the risks and benefits of HRT that they need to make informed decisions, according to LaCroix and her team. Donna Shoup, MD, at Women's Hospital in Los Angeles, agrees. "[For example], although the media emphasizes breast cancer risks, women actually have much greater risk of cardiovascular or heart disease," she tells WebMD. "This is where [HRT] is beneficial."

Through surveys with physicians, LaCroix and her team found that most of them agreed that HRT reduces risk of osteoporosis or heart disease. And while close to one-third of doctors agreed that a strong scientific case has been made that HRT increases risk of breast cancer, more than half of them disagreed.

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