This Menopause Therapy Didn't Affect Death Risk

Hormone replacement therapy may not increase risk of death for menopausal women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been a subject of controversy since past research linked it to health problems like cancer. New evidence, however, might clear up some concerns about this treatment.

A new review of past research claims that HRT neither increased the risk of dying nor protected women from death. The authors of this study noted that women who have severe menopause symptoms may not need to fear using HRT.

Lead study author Khalid Benkhadra, MD, a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, said in a press release, “At present, we do not have evidence that hormone therapy in postmenopausal women increases mortality or protects from death compared with women who never used hormones.”

Angela DeRosa, DO, MBA, CPE, a member of the International Menopause Society and an associate professor at A. T. Still University in Kirksville, MO, told dailyRx News that women undergoing HRT face a minimal risk of breast cancer.

"Breast cancer risks for appropriate HRT candidates are not statistically significant," Dr. DeRosa said.

Dr. Benkhadra and colleagues reviewed 43 studies published between 1982 and 2013. They selected these studies carefully, using only those with moderate- to high-quality evidence.

These trials had to be at least six months in length. Women in these studies were 50 years old or older.

Also, these researchers chose only randomized trials, in which women were divided into an HRT group and either a placebo group or a no-treatment group. A placebo is a fake treatment, and neither researchers nor patients know who is getting the placebo.

Dr. Benkhadra and team found that there was essentially no relationship between HRT and death, whether from breast cancer, heart attack or stroke. Nor did the type of hormones used for HRT appear to matter.

However, these researchers did find that postmenopausal women who were taking HRT who had a cancer other than breast cancer were slightly more likely to die from their cancer than women taking a placebo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that many women do take HRT and that HRT can affect other aspects of a woman’s health.

For instance, the CDC noted that women using HRT were less likely to have diabetes than women who were former users of HRT or who had never used HRT.

According to the CDC, “Until we have more definitive information about HRT’s effects on diseases, each woman must, with the help of her physician, weigh the risks and benefits of use. Whether or not a woman uses HRT depends on many factors: how she perceives the risks and benefits of HRT vs. the risks and potential harm of menopausal symptoms and various diseases affected by HRT; the information she obtains from her physician about HRT; and her access to health care.”

This study was presented March 6 at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego. Research presented at conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Funding sources were not available at the time of publication. Dr. Benkhadra and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 6, 2015
Last Updated:
March 9, 2015