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Hormone therapy may prevent heart attacks for women in their 50s

For the last few years, women have heard conflicting reports about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). A new study that analyzes many trials together concludes that HRT can reduce heart attacks by about one-third in women under age 60 but has mixed results for older women.

The statistical analysis of 23 trials with more than 39,000 women found that when women started HRT (estrogen with or without progesterone) in their 50s to relieve such menopausal symptoms as hot flashes, their risk of heart attacks or cardiac death fell by 32 percent compared with those receiving a placebo or no treatment.

This analysis, by researchers from Cornell and Stanford universities, is published in the April issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

For women over the age of 60, however, HRT increased the risk of heart attacks in the first year of treatment, but after two years of treatment HRT began to reduce heart attacks compared with women taking a placebo.

The study follows up on a similar 2004 meta-analysis (a study that pools trials together) conducted by the same researchers that probed overall deaths related to age and HRT. That study found 39 percent fewer deaths among women who began HRT before 60, compared with women of the same age given a placebo or no treatment.

"In the earlier study we did not have enough data to evaluate cardiac death, only total death," said astrophysicist Edwin Salpeter, the J.G. White Distinguished Professor of Physical Sciences Emeritus at Cornell, who has more recently focused his attention on medical statistics and led the statistical analysis in the study.

Various reports on the risks and benefits of HRT have generated confusion for women, Salpeter said. One reason is because the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) -- a long-term national health study focused on strategies for preventing heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and fractures in postmenopausal women -- had in
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Contact: Press Relations Office
pressoffice@cornell.edu
607-255-6074
Cornell University News Service
20-Apr-2006


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