Saturday, March 11, 2017

Study shows women taking hormones for menopause have lower risk of dying

CANCER DIGEST – March 10, 2016 – Women using hormone replacement therapy to relieve the symptoms of menopause faced a 30 percent lower risk of death compared to women not using hormone therapy, according to a single-center study that will be presented March 17 at the American College of Cardiology's 66th Annual Scientific Session. The study also showed lower levels of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the heart's arteries among women taking the hormones. 

The researchers analyzed the health records of more than 4,200 women who received a coronary calcium scan at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, between 1998 and 2012. A coronary calcium scan is a CT scan that measures the amount of calcium in the heart's arteries. Having higher levels of calcium is a marker for the buildup of plaque, which increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms has declined dramatically since a series of studies led by the Women’s Health Initiative found an increased risk of breast and other cancers associated with the therapy. This study spanned the time before and after that shift in use of post menopausal hormone therapy.

The researchers found that 41 percent of the women scanned reported taking hormone replacement therapy at the time of their calcium scan. Use of hormone therapy was highest between 1998-2002 and gradually decreased during the study period from more than 60 percent of women in 1998 to 23 percent of women in 2012. Just over 6 percent of the women died during an average follow-up period of eight years.

After accounting for age, coronary calcium score and cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, women using hormone replacement therapy were overall 30 percent less likely to die than those not on hormone therapy. 

Women using hormone replacement therapy were also 20 percent more likely to have a coronary calcium score of zero the lowest possible score, indicating a low likelihood of heart attack. They also were 36 percent less likely to have a highest coronary calcium score above 399 that indicates severe atherosclerosis and high heart attack risk.

"Hormone replacement therapy resulted in lower atherosclerosis and improved survival for all age groups and for all levels of coronary calcium," Yoav Arnson, MD of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the study’s lead author said in a press release. "From this we do think it is beneficial, but we would need prospective or randomized studies to determine which groups might not benefit or even be harmed by this therapy."

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