Health Risks Associated With Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

For many years, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the treatment of choice for the many uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. These hormones, frequently derived from the urine of a pregnant mare, offered relief from hot flashes and were believed to prevent osteoporosis. In 2002, however, the Women’s Health Initiative published findings that indicated significant and possibly deadly side effects.

Health Risks Associated With Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

There are several different kinds of hormone replacement therapy, but each form of HRT has been associated with significant risks for menopausal women. Here are just a few of the specific risks associated with different types of hormone replacement therapy.

  • Estrogen replacement therapy is associated with increased risk of endometrial cancer, especially when used in a pill or patch. Long-term use of topical estrogen may also have the same effect. The risk of endometrial cancer continues to be elevated even after the estrogen is stopped. Estrogen alone is almost never used for women who have a uterus.
  • Combined hormone replacement therapy, which uses both estrogen and progestin, does not appear to increase the risk of endometrial cancer, but raises the likelihood of breast cancer by about five to six percent. As progestin works as the salient ingredient, women who have had a hysterectomy should not take combined HRT as a menopause treatment.
  • Estrogen replacement therapy can increase chances of ovarian cancer by as much as 50 percent, when used for five years or more. Studies are inconclusive about the risk of ovarian cancer with combined hormone therapy.
  • HRT of all kinds may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and deep vein thrombosis. Studies here are not yet conclusive, so caution is advised, especially for women who have other risk factors for coronary disease.

Menopause Relief Without HRT Health Risks

As women turned away from conventional HRT, alternative treatments came to the fore. Herbal remedies offer an alternative to HRT, though often the efficacy remains low-level, offsetting their generally accepted safety in comparison to HRT. Ammonium succinate — a natural substance that has been found to relieve menopause symptoms — also poses potential relief from menopause without the dangers posed by HRT, often more effectively than herbal and other natural remedies.

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