New study shows that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reduces risk of heart failure and mortality

Long-term benefits of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) to women receiving the treatment early after menopause without any increase in cancer

A new study, recently published by the British Medical Journal1, presents the result of a long-term clinical trial following more than 1000 Danish women receiving HRT at the time of menopause or not.

This study suggests that after 10 years of treatment and 16 years of total follow up, HRT-treated women had a significantly reduced risk of mortality and heart failure without an apparent increase in any cancers, venous thromboembolism or stroke.

After publication of results from the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 failed to demonstrate an overall health benefit, millions of women around the world suddenly stopped their hormonal treatment. Since then, several studies have suggested that the risks of breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases may have been overstated.

This study concludes that there is a window of opportunity in which HRT may exert positive effects on health, but the low incidence of breast cancer and relatively small numbers of women demand caution in this interpretation.

Professor Cyrus Cooper, Chair of the Committee of Scientific Advisors at IOF said: ”HRT is established as a treatment for menopausal symptoms and is known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. These findings are reassuring with regard to excess risk of cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer, but further data will be required before longer term HRT can be recommended.”

1. Schierbeck LL et al. Effects of hormone replacement on cardiovascular events in recently postmenopausal women: randomized trial. BMJ. 2012 Oct 9;345:e6409. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e6409.