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Risks of Hormones in Early Menopause Challenged

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Safety Issues continued...

Chlebowski has been a lead researcher in the WHI. He was not involved in the current study.

“The big thing for me, as a medical oncologist, is that it doesn’t address the safety issue of cancer,” he says. “Estrogen plus progestin in the WHI significantly increased the risk for breast and lung cancer, the two leading causes of cancer death in women.”

“In a three- or four-year study, you really can’t say anything about breast cancer safety,” Chlebowski says.

Researchers acknowledge that their study was too small to show significant differences in the numbers of serious side effects like heart attacks, strokes, and cancers between women who took hormones and those who did not.

But they say it should reassure women who need to take hormones for a short time.

“The KEEPS study shows there are a lot of benefits of starting hormone therapy,” Asthana says. “The findings suggest that the risk benefit ratio is shifted a bit more toward benefits. Until now, it was the risk that was dominating.”

But Chlebowski says when it comes to hormone therapy with both estrogen and progesterone, women still need to carefully consider all the evidence.

“I don’t think this changes things very much, if at all. Some women will need to take it because they have limiting symptoms, but since there’s a risk associated with its use, I think they should carefully consider whether they need it,” he says.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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