Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Study Halted

On July 9, 2002, a NIH study on hormone replacement therapy involving 16,000 women was stopped early due to the findings of increased incidence of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke in study participants taking HRT, specifically Prempro, a combination of estrogen derived from pregnant mares and medroxyprogesterone. Prempro is the "Gold Standard" for HRT and is the most commonly prescribed HRT combination for menopausal women.

While only a small number of women in the study were affected, the results are statistically significant and in the view of the researchers showed that the overall health risks of Prempro may outweigh the benefits. Additionally, on July 17, JAMA published a study confirming increased rates of uterine cancer in women taking Prempro.

It is important to recognize that these studies may not apply to other forms of hormone replacement therapy, both prescription and non-prescription. For example, natural progesterone, a common choice for women seeking natural HRT alternatives, was not used in either study.

Natural progesterone has been shown in numerous studies to decrease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Red clover, black cohosh and alflafa have all been shown to reduce and relieve menopausal symptoms due to constituents which are similar to estrogen and produce estrogen-like effects in the body.

In fact, some so-called phytoestrogens have shown anti-cancer effects in some studies and are possibly protective. Also, acupuncture and the addition of soy-based foods in the diet have been shown to effectively reduce menopausal symptoms.

In the final analysis, the choice of hormone replacement therapy lies with each woman and needs to be weighed in terms of potential risks and benefits on an individual basis. While these study results may be alarming to women on HRT, thoughtful consideration should be done to decide how to proceed from here.

There are many possible choices. At SOMA Acupuncture, we treat many women who wish to address menopausal health issues with acupuncture, herbal and nutritional support, and occasionally the use of naturally-derived phytoestrogens and progesterones.