In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers at the University of Minnesota have confirmed earlier, smaller studies that show hormone replacement therapy significantly reduces the overall death rate for postmenopausal women.
But despite its size, the study still will not settle the continuing debate over the controversial treatment, said Dr. Aaron Folsom, a professor of epidemiology at the university and the lead author of the study.
That is because researchers did not compare women who were taking only the female hormone estrogen with those who were taking both estrogen and progestin, another hormone that counteracts estrogen’s tendency to boost the risk of developing endometrial cancer, Folsom said.
Results of the study were published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Although incomplete, results of the Folsom study are encouraging. It shows that women who undergo hormone replacement therapy have a 22 percent lower overall death rate than those who do not take estrogen.
The biggest reduction involves a nearly 50 percent decrease in the incidence of coronary heart disease, Folsom said. Women who undergo the treatment also have a lower risk of suffering bone fractures and a slightly lower risk of developing some types of cancers.
But the study also shows that women who undergo the treatment have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.