Many women take estrogen plus progestin, a form of hormone
replacement therapy, to combat the negative side effects associated
with menopause. That may not be the case in the near future,
however. After health risks were determined to exceed benefits,
earlier this year, the safety monitoring board for the Women's
Health Initiative (WHI) halted an eight-and-a-half-year study
on postmenopausal women taking estrogen plus progestin.
The WHI, which seeks to define risks and prevention strategies
for heart disease, cancer, and fractures in postmenopausal
women, enrolled women ages 50-79 in a set of studies between
1993 and 1998. One study of nearly 17,000 women compared estrogen
plus progestin in one daily tablet to a placebo tablet (i.e.,
Just over five years into the study, however, the risk for
invasive breast cancer exceeded the "stopping boundary" for
the study, and risks from taking the estrogen plus progestin
were deemed too
high to continue the trial. Compared to women taking placebo,
women taking hormones were significantly more likely to suffer
a stroke, breast cancer, or heart disease.
Although progestin plus estrogen is intended in part as a
primary prevention for heart disease and death, it actually
may increase risk for the condition. If the study had continued
for several more years, the risks from taking these combined
hormones may have been much worse.
Writing Group for the Women's Health Initiative Investigators.
Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal
women: Principal results from the Women's Health Initiative
randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical
Association 2002:288(3), pp. 321-333.
For more tips on women's health issues, see http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/women.