New Warnings for Women Taking HRT.
Estrogen-Only Hormone Therapy Linked to Ovarian Cancer
WebMD News Archive
But the health officials did not stop the part of the study
evaluating estrogen alone in 11,000 women without uteruses because these women
did not appear to have the same increased risks for breast cancer as those on
combined therapy. The 11,000 women have been sent letters stating this, but the
issue of ovarian cancer has not been addressed.
Marcia Stefanick, MD, who leads the Women's Health Initiative
steering committee, says no definitive conclusions on ovarian cancer risk can
be made from the NCI study because of its design. Stefanick is an associate
professor of medicine at Stanford University.
"Observational studies like this one give us great insight
into what hypotheses we should test, but they don't answer the questions,"
she tells WebMD. "For that you need randomized, clinical trials."
Stefanick says the overall balance of risks vs. benefits is not
clear for women taking estrogen alone. She hopes women taking part in the
estrogen-only arm of the Women's Health Initiative trial will stay on the
study, scheduled to continue until 2005.
"The risks that led us to stop the combined treatment arm
of the trial were relatively small, and we have not seen those risks in women
taking estrogen alone," she says. "We are committed to the safety of
our study participants. We hope that women will continue on the trial so that
we can get definitive answers to these questions."
Margery Gass, MD, who is president elect of the National
American Menopause Society, says women taking either estrogen alone or combined
therapy for relief of menopause symptoms should be reassured that short-term
use appears safe.
"Both patients and physicians alike have tried to make
decisions regarding hormone therapy with the information they have had at the
time," she says. "Now we finally have some definable risks, and women
can apply those risks to their lives and their decisions."