Hormone replacement therapy and its beneficial or detrimental effects have been the subject of debate for years in the medical community. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) uses synthetic estrogens and progesterone in combination to replace the organic hormones that start to decrease as women move into menopause. Many women decide to turn to hormone replacement therapy to help reduce menopausal symptoms and discomfort. No rigorous testing of HRT had been completed before doctors started to use HRT on women. The protocols were adopted because they seemed to make biologic sense. Then in 2002 the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) published their preliminary finding that taking HRT for five years or longer appeared to increase the risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and a host of other health problems. This sent many women using or considering using HRT into a panic. I got calls from patients for weeks after the news stories broke. The final word was that low doses of HRT may still be beneficial and the patient and her doctor should weigh the options together and make the best decision for the individual.
This week, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that HRT does increase the risk of breast cancer and death. The study conducted at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute found that two times as many women died of breast cancer if they were taking HRT than the placebo group. The study was conducted with 12,000 women and not only were there more deaths but more tumors and aggressive forms of cancer.
This is an important study because it confirms there are risks with taking hormonal therapy. I’m sure it may come as a shock or disappointment to women who are struggling with menopausal symptoms. However, there is a strong and proven natural method to help women have vibrant health without taking HRT. Most of the women that came into my practice with symptoms found that appropriate adjustments to their diet, changing exercise routines and managing stress using mind-body medicine techniques made significant differences.