I am shifting away from yoga and sex to bring you some news from the community of women’s health research.
Earlier this week, the Journal of the American Medicine Association published a study showing that women who took a combination of estrogen and progestin to treat symptoms of menopause “were more likely to have tumors that appeared to be larger, were often hard to treat and were more likely to have spread to their lymph nodes” (The Washington Post). Furthermore, women who chose this hormone replacement therapy – under the name brand of Prempro – were more likely to die than women taking the placebo pill who contracted cancer.
These findings are very scary. I am sure there is a woman in every person’s life who takes or is considering taking hormones to combat the sometimes crippling symptoms of menopause.
For years, doctors have gone back and forth about the dangers/benefits of hormone replacement therapy, publishing contradictory findings on its links to cancer and other women’s health issues. While this most recent study stresses that the absolute risk of dying from cancer after using HRT is still quite low, (about 2.6/10,000) it is the relative risk that is worrisome, as “25 women among those taking the hormones died from breast cancer, compared with 12 among those who took a placebo.” This is an astounding ratio: out of the small amount of women who developed cancer after taking HRT, twice as many died from the disease than women who were not taking the hormones.
I am not an expert on hormones or menopause and I am new to the studies on HRT and cancer. But I do know that pills with a combination of estrogen and progestin appear elsewhere in our pharmaceutical closet, and are marketed to a crowd that is closer to my age: birth control. If combination HRT is associated so strongly with cancer – moreover, terminal cancer – it is impossible not to think that combination birth control pills might have a similar effect.
Whether you are hoping to prevent the many symptoms of menopause or avoid an unwanted pregnancy, ingesting synthetic or abnormal amounts of hormones can have deleterious consequences for your body.