HRT May Reduce Diabetes Risk
But Hormone Therapy Still Isn't for Everyone
"These findings are scientifically interesting, but they need confirmation by further studies," says Kanaya. "It is premature to recommend the use of hormone replacement therapy for the prevention of diabetes."
Karen E. Friday, MD, associate professor of medicine at Tulane University, agrees that further studies are needed and says her great hope is that the negative press about HRT in recent months has not halted research on estrogens because there is more that we need to know.
According to Friday, both animal and human studies suggest that estrogen plays a significant role in how the body regulates the sugar glucose, and she says we don't yet understand all of the potential mechanisms and influences of various forms of estrogen on diabetes.
Since diabetes is known to greatly increase a person's risk of heart disease, finding a way to safely reduce that additional risk through the use of HRT could have tremendous potential.
"For example, if you're a postmenopausal woman that hasn't developed heart disease, preventing diabetes -- in theory -- might help you prevent future heart disease," says Friday. "But if you're a diabetic woman who's already faces an increased risk of heart disease, does taking estrogen now make that better or worse? That question remains to be answered."
SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 7, 2003 • Alka M. Kanaya, MD, assistant professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco • Eugene Barrett, MD, president-elect, American Diabetes Association • Karen E. Friday, MD, associate professor of medicine, Tulane University • WebMD Feature: "Conflicting Studies Muddy HRT Waters."