Hormone replacement therapy in postmenopause - where we stand?
Background: The findings of most relevant randomized clinical studies such as HERS, WHI and MWS, performed in the last decade have shown that hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) users are at increased risk for the development of breast cancer, stroke and pulmonary edema. On the other hand they are at a lower risk for the development of large bowel cancer and for hip and vertebral fractures; the incidences of endometrial cancer and coronary heart disease have not been proved to be significantly affected by HRT. As for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, the findings of these studies differed from those provided by observational studies, it became an imperative to find the causes of these discrepancies. The major criticism of randomized clinical studies was aimed at the inclusion criteria, as the mean women’s age in HERS and in WHI study was 63 years. The women of that age may no longer be healthy, and are particularly exposed to cardiovascular diseases. In all studies the same type of HRT was used, i.e. conjugated equine estrogen alone or in combination with medroxyprogesterone acetate. In Europe, this combination is rarely prescribed; we do not prescribe it in Slovenia either. The same type of HRT used in randomized clinical studies was further criticized, the basic idea of HRT being an individual approach to each woman requiring HRT. For rather sensational and often misinterpreted findings of randomized studies, the largest menopause societies worldwide, the International Menopause Society (IMS), the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) and the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), have revised the guidelines for HRT use in postmenopause. These guidelines have been adopted by the Slovene Menopause Society as well.
Conclusions: The indications for HRT remain to be markedly expressed and severe climacteric symptoms, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, urogenital syndrome and premature menopause. However, the ‘safe’ window regarding the duration of HRT use has disappeared, and so have the terms ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ treatment. The only criterion for the duration of HRT use is to constantly assess the benefits and risks for each individual, and to adjust the dose, type and duration of HRT use accordingly.
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