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Hormone therapy may still offer important health benefits to postmenopausal women

"Subtle differences in hormone structure and subtle differences in cells can make a tremendous difference in outcome. This is why the effects of the specific estrogens and progestin used in the Women's Health Initiative may not apply to all estrogens and progestins," said Turgeon, who has done extensive research on steroid hormone action. "If we base all our conclusions on a single formulation, we are missing health benefits that may be conferred by different formulations and treatment regimens."

The researchers point out that how a drug is administered by pill or patch, for example -- can also be critical to how it affects the body. For example, when estrogen is taken as a pill, as in the Women's Health Initiative study, it must first be processed through the liver, which responds by producing several proteins, some of which are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. However, when estradiol is administered through the skin with a transdermal patch, these proteins are not affected.

"More fundamental research of the roles of hormones in specific tissues are needed, and more clinical studies of different formulations and ways of administering the drugs are essential," said Turgeon. "A current thrust of pharmaceutical research is to create slightly different estrogen or progestin molecules to select for the biological effects we want to enhance." The other authors of the Science article are Donald P. McDonnell of Duke University Medical Center and Kathryn A. Martin of Harvard Medical School.


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Contact: Carole Gan
916-734-9047
University of California, Davis - Health System
27-May-2004


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