Reports on the risks associated with conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have filled medical journals for more than 20 years. There was clear evidence that conventional HRT use increased a womans risk for heart disease and breast cancer. And yet, many physicians were still insisting on prescribing conventional hormone replacement therapy. And many women were still taking it. But the summer of 2002 forever removed the curtain of doubt surrounding the dangers of HRT.
On July 17, 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported on the findings from one part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), an 8.5 year project funded by the National Institutes of Health. The WHI involved 161,809 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79, and outlined the benefits and risks of a variety of treatments designed to lower the incidences of several diseases, including heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and fractures in postmenopausal women. Of this group, 16,608 women who were healthy and had an intact uterus participated in one part of the WHI, which tested the effectiveness of estrogen/progestin therapy.
According to the findings, women taking estrogen/progestin for five years or more had an increased risk for blood clots, coronary heart disease (CHD), strokes, and breast cancer. The researchers concluded, “The results indicate that this regimen should not be initiated or continued for primary prevention of CHD.”
The data indicated that if 10,000 women took the drugs for a year and 10,000 did not, women in the first group would have eight more cases of invasive breast cancer, seven more heart attacks, eight more strokes, and 18 more instances of blood clots.
In fact, researchers felt so strongly about the negative implications of long-term combined hormone replacement therapy, especially the unacceptably high risk for breast cancer, that they ended the study three years early! Participants were contacted and instructed to stop taking the drugimmediately.
The Research is Clear
The research leaves no room for doubt about conventional hormone replacement therapy and its negative effects on womens health.
- It does not reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease. While it can improve HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, these improvements are not associated with fewer heart attacks or other heart problems.
- It increases a womans risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots.
- It does not reverse pre-existing heart disease.
- It raises levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation that is a strong predictor of a future heart attack.
- It increases the risk of invasive breast cancer.
- It increases the likelihood of an abnormal mammogram after just one year of use.
- It increases risk of gallbladder disease by 40 percent.
Where Do We Go From Here?
While many physicians and researchers are still hoarding the “fool’s gold” known as hormone replacement therapy, complementary medicine is busily mining the mother lode of real goldand women are taking notice.
Large numbers of American women are either abandoning their hormone replacement therapy or deciding to never start taking it. Many are rejecting physicians unfamiliar with or unsympathetic to natural health supports. They are also realizing the power and wisdom of using natural medicines and herbal remedies for easing menopausal discomforts, and are very interested in natural solutions for heart disease and osteoporosis.
Before changing your hormone replacement therapy regimen, be sure to discuss your plans with your physician. Chances are, you will be able to eliminate your conventional hormone replacement therapy or dramatically reduce the dose you require for symptomatic relief. Either way, you win: Recent research indicates that breast cancer risk returns to normal within a few years of stopping HRT, and it’s likely that lower-dose HRT has less of an adverse impact on estrogen-positive breast cancer risk.
For more information about hormone replacement therapy and for a variety of natural hormone replacement therapy options, visit Dr. Lark’s Web site.