Hormone therapy may still offer important health benefits to postmenopausal women

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Despite the highly publicized closing of the Women's Health Initiative study, the scientific community should not rule out that women may benefit from hormone therapy after menopause, say researchers at UC Davis, Duke and Harvard Universities. Their review of the scientific literature on the biology of estrogens and progestins appears in the May 28 issue of the journal Science.

"It was right to close the Women's Health Initiative trial," said Judith L. Turgeon, professor of internal medicine at UC Davis School of Medicine and senior author of the Science article. "But we should not generalize the results of this trial and overlook the real potential that other forms of hormone therapy may offer to postmenopausal women."

The Women's Health Initiative trials used the steroid formulation most frequently prescribed in the United States at the time, given to women in pill form on a daily basis. New information gleaned from basic research in the biology of ovarian hormones, however, indicates that not all estrogens and progestins are alike, nor do they behave identically in different tissues in the body.

"As our understanding of the biology of these hormones grows, the more we realize how important certain factors are -- such as formulation, dosage, whether they're given by a pill or a patch, and characteristics of women being treated," said co-author Phyllis M. Wise, dean of the division of biological sciences and distinguished professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior at UC Davis. "More targeted therapies may yield important health benefits."

Estrogens affect many tissues in the body. During natural menopause, which occurs in women at an average age of 51 years, estrogen and progesterone secretion from the ovaries diminish. Afterwards, the risk of coronary heart disease and osteoporosis increases. Stroke and dementia are also associated with aging.

"Estrogens and progestins provi

Contact: Carole Gan
University of California, Davis - Health System

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