HRT RISKS / MYTHS

There has been a lot of fear surrounding Hormone Replacement Therapy, which is in part due to a study released by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) in 2002.  That study showed that there was an increase in breast cancer in women who supplemented lost hormones with HRT.  A lot of women quickly went off their hormone replacement, terrified of getting breast cancer.  So is that the truth; that HRT increases breast cancer risks? Or has this study misrepresented how hormone replacement works in the body?  Let’s take a closer look. 

 

The WHI study concluded that women who were on HRT had greater increased risks of breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots.  What wasn’t reported at that time, was that the study participants were all postmenopausal, and 70% percent of the participants were 70 years old or older.  The other fact that wasn’t made readily available was that the clinical trial only studied the effects of a SYNTHETIC estrogen (Premarin) ALONGSIDE a SYNTHETIC progesterone (Provera).  The combination of elderly participants plus the use of two synthetic hormone replacements has since been proven to have been the cause of the risks. Studies have since come out proving that in fact NOT TAKING hormone replacement has severe consequences in hysterectomized and young women.  Women who refused to replace their hormones were being found to have higher incidents of bone deterioration and fractures, heart related diseases and heart attacks, early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s and an increase rate in premature death.  In light of the new information, more studies have been done and have since invalidated the WHI initial study for most women. 

 

When researching facts for this website, we wanted to provide you with the most truthful information we can.  We have compiled a list of common HRT myths and facts for you to review and use in conjunction with your doctor to help choose the best options you can for your body.

 

  1. HRT causes breast cancer: Studies show that estrogen only HRT, does not increase in the risk of breast cancer.  Synthetic hrt (Premarin plus Prempo)can be associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk.  DISCLAIMER: this risk is increased for women with estrogen or progesterone positive breast cancers and HRT may not be suitable for these women.  Please speak with your doctor.

  2. HRT causes heart attacks: Studies show that HRT does not increase the risk of heart attacks if started immediately when becoming postmenopausal.  There are some studies that show women who wait 10 years or more before starting hormone replacement can be at higher risk for cardiovascular events.  Oral HRT does increase the risk of stroke and blood clots; however, the effect is usually minimal.  This effect can be avoided by using the transdermal options (gels, patches, creams) instead.  In fact, HRT has shown to have a protective effect on the heart  and blood vessels in women who are prematurely put into menopause.

  3. Natural methods are safer than HRT:  This is not always true.  Some “natural methods” can be extremely harmful.  Phytoestrogens are one of the top “natural methods” and have risks all their own.  Black Cohosh, for example, can be extremely hard on the liver and shouldn’t be taken indefinitely.  Phytoestrogens also can create an estrogen like effect and women who are not allowed HRT due to an estrogen positive breast cancer diagnosis, should NOT take phytoestrogens.  Natural methods are not hormones in your body and they only act as place-holders in the cells helping to relieve some symptoms. Therefore, they do not have the bone, heart and brain protective effects that hormone replacement has.  Speak with your doctor before choosing any “natural” methods to make sure it is an appropriate choice for you body.

  4. Women need examinations before taking HRT:  Each and every woman should be working with an well trained, up to date doctor who understands her specific risks.  Blood tests to check for blood clotting disorders or gene disorders may be needed before a woman chooses the correct hormone replacement for her body. 

  5. You can only have HRT for 5 Years: Studies have now proven that HRT can be taken for as long as needed, using the lowest possible dose.  In fact, HRT is extremely important for women who enter menopause before age 50 and should not be stopped before then, unless there are gene or blood clotting risks.

  6. HRT is dangerous: HRT actually protects the bones from osteoporosis and the heart from early heart failure or disease.  It also protects the brain and fights off early diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s or Early Onset Dementia.  This is very important for women who are in pre-mature menopause. (SURMENO)

  7. HRT causes blood clots: Oral HRT has shown to increase the risk of blood clots slightly.  Being healthy and keeping your risk factors low (smoking, obesity, etc.) will keep your overall risk at a minimum.  Women who have blood clotting disorders like Factors II, V, VII, X, XII or Von Willebrand's should possibly choose a transdermal method of HRT.  Transdermal methods have not been shown to increase blood clotting risks and may be safe for those ladies.  As always check with your doctor first.

  8. HRT causes weight gain: In fact not using HRT can contribute to weight gain. When the body has no estrogen being made from the ovaries, the body can switch to making small amounts of estrogen from the fat tissues.  In order to accomplish this, the body will hang onto fat cells more readily in order to make estrogen.  Also, unbalanced estrogen that is either not balanced with progesterone or a too high of a dose can cause some weight gain as well.  Estrogen is well known for plumping tissues and making the body retain water.  Unfortunately, women have a tendency to gain weight in midlife when menopause usually hits, so an induced menopause can start that process earlier.  Eating healthy and exercising can help offset that risk of weight gain.

 

As you can see, there is a lot of misinformation about HRT out there, and due to the ability to just search the internet for anything, it’s very easy to get unproven studies and articles to pop up.  When researching HRT and its risks, it’s very important to use the newer scientific studies and reputable sources.  

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