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Hormone Therapy May Not Protect Heart

Hormone Therapy May Not Protect Heart
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There was also no evidence that hormone therapy protected against bone fractures associated with osteoporosis, but women on HRT were found to be at increased risk for blood clots and gallbladder disease.

Petitti, who wrote an editorial assessing the new findings, tells WebMD that though there is mounting evidence showing hormone replacement does not protect the heart, the jury is still out on its ability to protect against bone loss and related fractures. In addition, she says, research on the protective role of hormones against age-related dementia has only just begun.

Clinicians are looking to a major study to help provide more answers. More than 27,000 women on hormone replacement therapy are taking part in the federally funded Women's Health Initiative. Final results from the trial are scheduled for release in 2006, but Petitti says interim reports may help clarify the risks and benefits of HRT sooner.

"Right now we can say that (menopausal) symptom relief is the main established benefit of hormone replacement therapy," says Petitti, who is director of research for Kaiser Permanente California. "I think that all of the other benefits remain to be established."

Lori Mosca, MD, says there are still a lot of good reasons for women to be on hormone replacement therapy. Mosca wrote a revised American Heart Association position statement on HRT published last July. The group now says that HRT should not be recommended solely for the prevention of heart disease and that women with a history of one or more heart attacks should avoid hormone replacement if not already on it.

Mosca tells WebMD that a major benefit of hormone replacement therapy -- improved quality of life -- is rarely measured in clinical trials. She says there is no reason women should stop taking HRT if it relieves their menopausal symptoms.

"So many women on this therapy feel better," she says. "There is still a role for hormone replacement in the treatment of menopausal symptoms and the prevention of thinning bones. And there is nothing in these new studies to indicate that women should stop taking (HRT), with the exception of those with existing heart disease who are taking it solely to prevent a second heart attack."

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