Some women get through menopause saying, “What’s the big deal?” Some women have easily controlled symptoms. Then there’s the rest of us. I had a terrible time of it. What saved me was the much maligned Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Today in the New York Times they reported on yet another study saying that women who take HRT are at greater risk of breast cancer. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/health/20hormone.html?th&emc=th
But wait a minute. I had to take biological statistics in grad school. (The emphasis is on the “had to” part as math and I have never been good friends.) But I did learn some important things that have served me well over the years. One of them is before you run really scared about any study do some math yourself.
The study in question followed 12,000 older women who were past menopause. I did the math and looked at the findings: They found the increased risk for those women who were taking or had taken HRT for more than 5.5 years was .01%! I also learned in Bio Stat that .01% is statistically insignificant.
Let’s compare that .01% increased risk to that of drinking more than 2 drinks a day which will give a woman nine times the risk of developing breast cancer!!!! Why don’t we ever see that in the New York Times or anywhere else in the media?
In researching out this subject I found some other important studies that haven’t received much press: Estrogen-alone hormone therapy does not increase the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women at all, according to an updated analysis of the breast cancer findings of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Estrogen-Alone Trial. These trials were conducted by the National Institute of Health not some pharmaceutical company trying to sell its’ drugs. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/health/20hormone.html?th&emc=thmen's
If you’ve had a hysterectomy the above is good news. Women with a uterus are given progesterone as well as estrogen. Those were the women who were studied in the New York Times article and had the .01% increased risk. However, if you’ve had your uterus removed as so many of us have, you can skip the progesterone and have no increased risk. So if you’re one of the millions of women having trouble with menopause, we just got a cancer free card. How good is that?
And there’s more good news: “New results from a sub-study of the Health Initiative (WHI) Estrogen-Alone Trial show that younger postmenopausal women who take estrogen-alone hormone therapy have significantly less buildup of calcium plaque in their arteries compared to their peers who did not take hormone therapy. Coronary artery calcium is considered a marker for future risk of coronary artery disease.”
Results of the WHI Coronary Artery Calcium Study are published in the June 21, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The WHI is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. http://www.nejm.org/medical-index
So if you’re suffering take the HRT in bio-identical form which works well for many women or the tried and true Premarin which has been around for over 50 years. By the way, I’m sure that if men had to go through menopause, the good news about HRT would be front page news every day!