Magazine article Science News

Heart Findings Support Hormonal Therapy

Magazine article Science News

Heart Findings Support Hormonal Therapy

Article excerpt

A woman's chance of developing heart disease rises after "the change of life"-- perhaps because the ovaries produce much less of the sex hormone estrogen. It is well-known that estrogen-replacement therapy lowers a woman's risk of getting heart disease. Yet, studies also reveal a dark side of estrogen therapy: It boosts the chances of developing a type of uterine cancer.

To weaken that risk, some doctors advise postmenopausal women to combine estrogen with progestin, a progesterone-like drug that blocks the proliferation of cells in the uterus. Trouble is, some evidence indicates the addition of progestin cancels estrogen's heart benefits.

A controversial study now offers some heartening news: Researcher Aaron R. Folsom says that postmenopausal women taking estrogen plus progestin may reap even greater cardiovascular benefits than women taking estrogen by itself. Yet, Trudy L. Bush, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, warns against jumping to such a conclusion: "I think it's premature to say that estrogen plus progestin is better than estrogen alone."

Folsom, who is at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, and his colleagues conducted an observational study of postmenopausal women. The researchers noted that 853 women were using estrogen; 173 were taking estrogen and progestin; and 3,932 were not using any hormones.

In the April 15 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, the team reports that post-menopausal women following either of the hormone-replacement regimens show a better cardiovascular profile than those taking no such medication. …

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