Hormones are dangerous!
That’s the foregone conclusion you could reach when you do a quick Google search of the words, “hormones for menopause.” A bunch of medical authority sites pop up in your search, telling you that “estrogen increases breast cancer and heart attack risk,” “hot flashes can be treated with natural remedies” and “hormones should only be given at the lowest effective dose and should not be used for more than 5 years.”
Many of these websites refer to the Women’s Health Initiative study that was stopped in 2002 because of an increased risk of breast cancer and heart attacks. The WHI seems to be the final word on hormones for menopause. It’s had a huge impact on the treatment of menopause, causing a sudden drop in the prescribing of hormones. Some women panicked in 2002, reading sensational headlines about hormones and breast cancer, immediately flushed their hormone tablets down the toilet.
Never Fear, Science Is Here
Looking a little closer at hormones for menopause, you will realize that although the WHI was stopped in 2002, medical science continues. Several new studies have come out in the past few years that help us understand the nuanced risks and benefits of hormones for menopause and help to answer some of the questions that came up after the WHI.
Here are a few of those studies and what they mean for you:
- The Early vs. Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol (ELITE) This study is an attempt to determine if the risks of hormones demonstrated in the WHI, especially for increased heart problems, are because women waited an average of 12 years after the onset of menopause before they got hormone treatment. Instead of the horse estrogens (Premarin®) used in the WHI, ELITE uses bioidentical estradiol, chemically the same as the most prominent human estrogen.
- The Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) Is giving estrogen early in menopause good or bad for your heart? KEEPS results seem to say that hormones early in menopause have positive effects on the heart.
- The E3N Cohort Study This French study indicates that there is a marked difference between bioidentical progesterone and other progestins, especially for the risk of breast cancer. Patients taking progesterone had the lowest risk of breast cancer when compared to other, non-bioidentical progestins.
- Vaginal DHEA for Menopausal Vaginal Atrophy This study aims to find out if vaginal DHEA, in a suppository, is a safe and effective for problems “down there” caused by menopause. Preliminary studies have shown DHEA helps with pain, dryness and even sexual desire.
- REPLENISH Phase 3, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Multicenter Study REPLENISH is a trial to determine if a new capsule containing estradiol and progesterone is an effective and safe treatment for menopause. Big pharma is taking note of women just like you who are getting compounded bioidentical hormones and they want in. Although the study is no longer taking participants, here’s the REPLENISH recruitment video.
I’ll be taking a closer look at these studies and others over the next few weeks. Sign up for my Hormone Updates to stay informed about the latest research on hormones for menopause and what that research means for you.