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Hormone Therapy May Benefit Some Women's Hearts

Findings Come With Caveats continued...

In addition, researchers mixed two different groups of women, those with and without a uterus. That’s important because women who’ve had their uterus surgically removed are prescribed a different kind of HRT than women who still have a uterus. They take estrogen alone.

Many studies, including the WHI, have shown that taking estrogen alone is safer for younger women and may even offer some protection against heart disease and breast cancer, compared to when it is balanced with progesterone. Women who still have their uterus have to take both because using estrogen by itself raises the risk for endometrial cancer.

Mixing both groups of women in the study may have muddied the results, says Rowan T. Chlebowski, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

For women who still had their uterus, the study tested an estrogen-progesterone combination that isn’t commonly used in the U.S., Chlebowski says, so it’s unclear whether the results would apply to women in this country.

“All these things mean that the study doesn’t really provide useful information,” Chlebowski says.

Other experts agree.

“Overall, the number of clinical events was far too small to provide reassurance about the risks of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, or cancer with hormone therapy, and the findings should not be used to support the use of long-term hormone therapy for chronic disease prevention,” says JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

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