HealthWatch: More Criticism of Hormone Therapy
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New findings confirm that estrogen alone does nothing to help heart disease in women who have had a hysterectomy, and its small rewards do not outweigh the risks.

"There is a benefit in reducing the risk of hip fracture, but it comes with a very large downside," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg of Lenox Hill Hospital.

Researchers say their studies show that estrogen alone increased the risk of dementia and the risk of stroke by nearly 40%.

"These results suggest that for every 10,000 women followed for one year, there would be 12 additional strokes in women who were taking estrogen alone," said Dr. Marian Limacher.

However, as for the risk of breast cancer, the research revealed a surprise.

"Estrogen alone did not increase the risk," Limacher said. "There's even a little bit of suggestion that there was a reduction in risk"

That's different from another study, where women using estrogen plus progestin had an increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers say more studies are needed to know why the results differed. However, they agree on one point -- hormone replacement therapy is a failure at preventing age-related disease in post-menopausal women.

Some younger women may still get a benefit from estrogen.

"It reduces menopausal symptoms," Goldberg said. "It helps for hot flashes and vaginal dryness and sleeplessness."

But women should check with their doctor, discuss all the options, and use hormones for the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time.