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WHI study finds no heart disease benefit, increased stroke risk with estrogen alone

A large, multi-center heart disease prevention study, part of the Womens Health Initiative (WHI), found that estrogen-alone hormone therapy had no effect on coronary heart disease risk but increased the risk of stroke for postmenopausal women. The study also found that estrogen-alone therapy significantly increased the risk of deep vein thrombosis, had no significant effect on the risk of breast or colorectal cancer, and reduced the risk of hip and other fractures.

The WHI is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The estrogen-alone study was stopped at the end of February 2004 because the hormone increased the risk of stroke and did not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, a key question of the trial. The study was to have ended in March 2005. Initial findings appear in the April 14 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

A separate report on the WHI Memory Study of estrogen alones effects on dementia and cognitive function will be published soon.

These findings confirm that estrogen-alone therapy should not be used to prevent chronic disease, said NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Barbara Alving. We believe the findings support current FDA recommendations that hormone therapy only be used to treat menopausal symptoms and that it be used at the smallest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

The results make clear that hormone therapy does not protect women against coronary heart disease and increases their risk for stroke, said Dr. Jacques Rossouw, WHI Project Officer at NHLBI. This may be especially true for older women, such as those aged 60 and older in this study.

As of July 2003, about 10 million American women were taking some form of hormone therapy. It is estimated that about 6.7 million of those take estrogen alone and 3.3 million take estrogen plus progestin. The drugs tested in the WHI are those most commonly u
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
13-Apr-2004


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