Women taking a short course of hormone therapy to relieve menopausal hot flashes, night sweats, and depressed moods can breathe a small sigh of relief: A Brigham and Women’s Hospital trial comparing estrogen pills, patches, and placebos found that taking hormones doesn’t pose more health risks than placebos — when used over the short-term within a year or two after menopause begins. In fact, oral estrogen pills (0.45 milligrams a day of Premarin) improved cholesterol levels, lifted moods, and decreased depression, while the estrogen patch (a 50 microgram continuous dose of Climara) protected against diabetes risk factors like insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels. The therapies improved hot flashes and night sweats, and increased bone density; neither raised blood pressure.
Women who had not had hysterectomies were also given progesterone pills to protect against uterine cancer, which is associated with taking estrogen alone.
“The findings should be reassuring, but they do not provide support for the use of hormone therapy for the prevention of chronic disease,” said Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher Dr. JoAnn Manson, one of the study’s principal investigators who presented the findings Wednesday at the North American Menopause Society meeting in Orlando.