A Follow-Up on the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative Sheds New Light on the Safety of Hormone Therapy for Menopausal Women
Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness—the distressing list of menopausal symptoms goes on and on. If you’ve been resisting giving bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) a try for relief because of concerns about its safety, a new study may lay your fears to rest.
An updated look at the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study—the largest randomized clinical trial of hormone therapy ever conducted that linked conventional versions of estrogen and progestin to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, and strokes—has vindicated hormone replacement therapy as a relatively safe treatment option for menopausal women. The study found that women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are no more at risk of premature death from all causes, or from cancer or cardiovascular issues specifically, than women who take placebos.
When the 2002 WHI results came out, droves of women became wary of HRT and stopped taking hormones altogether, missing out on the immense relief hormone therapy can provide. Many studies in the years since have shown that bioidentical hormone therapy is an even better option to help women get their quality of life back, improve their sleep, and protect their bone health, lowering fracture risk—but the stigma around hormone therapy has remained.
The follow-up study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September 2017, followed up on the 27,000 women aged 50 to 79 who had participated in the two trial arms of the Women’s Health Initiative. One trial looked at women taking non-bioidentical estrogen alone (Premarin) compared to a placebo, and the other looked at women taking non-bioidentical estrogen in combination with progestin (Prempro) compared to placebo. These women took hormones or a placebo for five to seven years and were followed for a total of 18 years. The death rates among both groups were similar at the end of that 18-year period, with the hormone group having slightly lower rates; 27.1% in the hormone therapy group and 27.6% in the placebo group.
What’s more, women of menopausal age (50 to 59) in the study had a 30 percent lower death rate when they took HRT than when they didn’t. Conventional hormone therapy, like that used in the study, consists of non-bioidentical hormones that are different from what the body produces naturally. Bioidentical hormones, which biologically mimic what your ovaries make naturally, is an even better option.
It’s important to note that this study looked at all-cause mortality and survival rate—not the incidence of cancer or cardiovascular disease diagnosis in the women studied. Taking conventional estrogen (Premarin) alone is still linked to an increased risk of endometrial cancer and stroke, and taking conventional estrogen and progestin together (Prempro) is still shown to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer—even if these illnesses don’t prove to be fatal. Bioidentical hormone therapy in studies has not been shown to have the same increased risks of cancer or cardiovascular disease attached to them—and it is a safe, effective option for menopausal symptoms, weight gain, low bone density, high cholesterol, and more.
The physicians within the BodyLogicMD network prescribe bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to women in perimenopause, menopause, and beyond to restore their hormonal balance and quality of life without the risks that come with conventional hormone therapy. Contact a BodyLogicMD physician today and start reaping the benefits of balanced hormones.