In 2002 the National Institute of Health published the findings of a study they funded called the Women’s Health Initiative. This study showed that women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had an increased risk of breast cancer, and alleged other consequences
such as heart disease, stroke, dementia and “all–cause“ mortality. Understandably, millions of women panicked, along with much of the western medical establishment and dropped the option of hormone therapy for women altogether.
The good news about estrogen was lost. More than 70 years of findings from animal, human and observational studies and randomized controlled studies that demonstrated the benefits of estrogen were thrown out. This research showed that the hypothesis that estrogen causes breast cancer was just not true. In fact, estrogen can often be safely used by women who have had breast cancer. The increased risk of breast cancer supposedly discovered by the Women’s Health Initiative was not statistically significant. Subsequent analysis of the data showed there was no increased risk of breast cancer for women who took estrogen.
The Women’s Health Initiative used Premarin and Progestin for their hormone replacement therapy. These are both flawed and potentially dangerous drugs. Premarin is made from pregnant mare’s urine (good for menopausal mares, not for women). It is not bio-identical to the estrogen women make and is horribly inhumane for the mares. Progestin is not bio-identical to the progesterone that women produce. Progestin has been linked to increased risk of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks.
Heart disease, not cancer, is the leading cause of death for women. It is even the leading cause of death for women who have had breast cancer. Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) can decrease the risk of heart disease for women by 30-50 %. It can also reduce the risk of hip fractures caused by osteoporosis by 50 %. Numerous studies show that bio-identical estrogen is the only intervention that prevents or reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in women. Women who start BHRT in the first 10 years following menopause reduce their risk of coronary artery disease.
BHRT is the most effective treatment for the familiar menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, and loss of sexual desire. BHRT also is successful treatment for heart palpitations, joint and muscle aches, headaches, bladder problems and depression. Finally, because of estrogen’s benefits to heart, brain and bones, women on BHRT live longer by years than those not taking it. This is one reason why the North American Menopause Society and 30 other international groups concluded that “there are no data to support routine stopping BHRT in women 65 and older.”
I do not believe that all women should take BHRT. Women should be aware that every medication, hormones included, carries some risk. The minor risks of BHRT for some women are far outweighed by the major benefits for most women.
Unfortunately the Women’s Health Initiative (now 17 years old) continues to be the gold standard for many women’s health practitioners. My personal belief is that BHRT is good for women, may help them live longer and have better quality in that long life.