Hormone therapy may boost quality of life, say Stanford researchers

STANFORD, Calif. - Hormone therapy after menopause can be a blessing or a curse - it helps keep bones strong and may prevent heart disease, but may also increase a woman's risk of breast cancer and may have side effects that lead to an overall lower quality of life. A study by Stanford researchers now shows that women who have symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, are more likely to see improved quality of life from hormone therapy. In other words, they may be happier.

"We studied quality of life because it is really important to people," said Mark Hlatky, MD, professor of health policy and research and of cardiovascular medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "In fact, people are willing to risk shortening their life in order to improve quality of life," he added.

Results from the study, called The Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS), were released in the Feb. 6 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

When women go through menopause their ovaries stop producing estrogen. This loss of hormone can result in side effects that range from annoying to life-altering, such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, lowered libido and trouble sleeping. Many women opt to replace lost estrogen through hormone replacement therapy - as much to reduce these symptoms as for achieving health benefits. However, contradictory reports about long-term effects have left women in a quandary about whether replacement therapy is right for them.

The HERS study was intended to resolve questions both about heart disease and quality of life in women taking hormone therapy, which contains both estrogen and progesterone. The study included 2,763 postmenopausal women who received either hormone therapy or placebo. Hlatky and his group monitored four aspects of quality of life over the course of three years: physical activity, energy levels, mental health and depressive sym

Contact: Amy Adams
Stanford University Medical Center

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