Menopause – HRT, hot flashes and twins
Hormone replacement therapy, often referred to as HRT, contains the hormone estrogen and sometimes progestin and is given to many women after menopause to relieve symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia.
In 2002 a large study discovered a connection between taking estrogen and progestin for menopause and the risk of breast cancer. Later this study also presented some evidence that the combined hormone therapy may also increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
At the time another large study – the Women’s Health Initiative – was in progress. It consisted of over 16,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 who were using hormone replacement therapy. The study ended early because of the other results.
More recently there is evidence that the number of new breast cancer cases has gone down dramatically which many attribute to many less women using HRT. This study was lead by Donald Berry from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. It reports a 7% decrease between 2002 and 2003 – with the largest difference seen in women from 50 to 69 years old – at 12%.
It is believed that it is related to estrogen receptor positive breast cancers which need the hormone estrogen to grow. There is still uncertainty however with this conclusion since the study relied on population statistics.
A new study called the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) headed by Virginia Miller of the U.S. Mayo Clinic College of Medicine is going to study over 700 women between 42 and 58 to see if HRT has a protective effect from heart disease if started at a younger age. It is believed by some researchers that if you start the hormone treatment at an earlier age it will benefit women. This could possibly be due to being able to prevent the plaque build up in arteries to begin with.
Other research paid for by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shown that black cohosh does not relieve hot flashes for women during menopause. It was headed by Katherine Newton of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle and the University of Washington. For this study, 351 women from 45 to 55 were given either black cohosh or one of four other possible treatments. The five different substances given were 1) black cohosh by itself, 2) a combination of black cohosh, alfalfa, licorice, oats, pomegranate, Siberian ginseng and 4 other things, 3) number 2 along with increased dietary soy, 4)hormone therapy or 5) a placebo. It was found that black cohosh only had their number of hot flashes reduced by as much as those taking the placebo. The women taking the hormones did however have their number of hot flashes reduced significantly.
Lastly, a study in Human Reproduction shows evidence that women who are twins have a greater chance of a premature menopause due to premature ovarian failure (POF) compared to other women. Around 800 twins in Australia and Britain were studied. It was discovered that twins were 3-5 times more likely to have POF between 40 and 45 years old.
(Technorati Tags: menopause, hormone, estrogen, black cohosh, health)
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3 Responses to 'Menopause – HRT, hot flashes and twins'
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on April 17th, 2008 at 6:33 pm
Interesting info about HRT. I’m on the fence about trying HRT for hot flashes and night sweats. I’ve tried Black Cohash and it seemed to help, but perhaps it was the placebo effect working.
on May 19th, 2008 at 8:33 pm
As a Licensed Acupuncturist, I have had patients come to me when HRT did not work, or for women who didn’t even want to go down that road of “synthetic” hormones. Of course, along with a balanced diet and exercise, acupuncture and Chinese herbs for menopause can help keep a woman’s hormones in balance and lessen pre-/peri-/post-menopausal symptoms. They provide natural ways to bring your body back into homeostasis so that you don’t have to experience the hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, dry skin, etc!
With studies like the one mentioned above, the disadvantage on whether the herbs work or not, from my (a Chinese herbalist’s) point of view, is that they are studying black cohosh and other herbs on anyone and everyone in the study! Every woman may present with similar symptoms, but each woman’s root energetic disharmonies are unique, and must be addressed as such. So giving the same herb(s) to all women doesn’t work! They must be combined with other herbs in an appropriate formula for each individual. So for anyone who’s tried an herb touted to work wonders for menopausal symptoms, and it didn’t work, it may not have been the right herb or combination of herbs for your unique presentation!
Lastly, most women also don’t realize that getting acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine before approaching menopause helps to prevent menopausal symptoms.
Thanks for the article on HRT – it seems like this can be difficult decision for many women, and the more information out there, the more educated a decision is.
on May 27th, 2008 at 9:06 pm
Thanks for the info from 2007 (and I know you just added an update for May 2008 on the same topic). I am interested in learning more about holistic approaches to menopause (including acupuncture). For anyone interested, here’s a pretty easy to understand look at HRT vs. no HRT and a bit about bioidenticals: