Estrogen-Only Hormone Therapy Is Safer Than Previously Thought

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A new study suggests that hormone therapy for menopausal women—long thought to be linked to health risks, particularly stroke—might not be so dangerous, at least in the case of women who have had hysterectomies. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that according to the Women's Health Initiative, long periods of estrogen-only therapy can sometimes be appropriate:

Although many women have sworn off hormone therapy, a new analysis from the clinical trial that first unearthed the hormones' risks shows taking estrogen alone for menopausal symptoms, even for several years, may be safer than first thought.

The new finding—the latest from the Women's Health Initiative, a federally funded trial that tracked thousands of women taking hormones or placebo pills for years—looked at women who have had hysterectomies and thus can take estrogen unaccompanied by another hormone, progestin. (Women with a uterus take progestin to protect against uterine cancer.) It found that a heightened risk of stroke from taking estrogen faded with time, while a reduced risk of breast cancer held steady.

That news, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., may weaken—for this group of women—the current recommendation from doctors that hormones to treat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms should be taken in the smallest doses possible for the shortest amount of time.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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