Hormone Therapy: Know the Facts

older woman

You may have heard recent news sites debating the effectiveness of Hormone Therapy (HT). Despite a lot of misunderstanding around HT, it is, by far, the most effective treatment available for women struggling with menopause – relieving hot flashes, vaginal dryness and sleeplessness. 

It also has been shown to:

  • Reduce by 30 percent the death rates of women younger than age 60
  • Improve bone mass and reduce osteoporosis fractures
  • Lower risks of certain illnesses like type 2 diabetes and colon cancer

Nevertheless, when I talk to my patients, I hear a great deal of misinformation about HT, perpetuated by media hype and misleading studies.

I want everyone to know what’s really true about HT:

1. There’s no connection between HT and ovarian cancer

There has been a suggestion that in some studies, there was a slight increase in ovarian cancer risk in women on postmenopausal HT. However, randomized controlled studies have not supported this claim.

Ovarian cancer rates are on the decline, but it’s primarily due to women’s increased use of hormonal contraception (which helps reduce ovarian cancer) and genetic testing to uncover markers for the disease early. It’s these changes as opposed to a decrease in menopausal HT that are lowering ovarian cancer rates.

2. Different women respond differently to HT

That’s why every woman should discuss the benefits and potential risks of HT with her physician. For example, HT in high oral doses prescribed to older women can increase their risk of stroke after age 65. The risks associated with HT vary according to a woman’s health history and lifestyle and how the HT is prescribed, so a decision about its use should always be made with a physician knowledgeable about HT.

3. Many studies of the risks of HT have been greatly exaggerated

The origin of much misinformation about HT stems from a 2002 study called the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). It was a scientific study that was not scientifically interpreted and was conducted with much older women without menopausal symptoms.

Finding relief

Women should not suffer needlessly with the symptoms of menopause because of inaccurate information and rumors about HT. I recommend that women get all of the facts before they make a decision about whether it’s right for them.

I further explain this topic on my website via blogs, health tips, YouTube videos, a health library, and “Ask Nurse Mary.” You’ll also find information you can trust about many other women’s health issues.

Speaking of Women’s Health

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Holly L. Thacker, MD

Holly L. Thacker, MD, Director of the Center for Specialized Women's Health and Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health, is nationally known for her leadership in women's health.
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    These are great and actually simple tips provided by Dr. Thacker. To add to Dr. Thacker’s point about sun protection daily, against UVA and UVB rays – look for a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 (recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation – can obviously go up and some dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30) – that will indicate that the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. SPF is only a measure of protection against UVB rays. UVB rays can cause sunburns while UVA rays can cause skin aging.