Current perspectives on benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy
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Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen alone or with added progestin relieves menopausal symptoms and physical changes associated with depleted endogenous estrogen levels. Estrogen replacement has also demonstrated a clear benefit in the prevention of osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy with added progestin maintains spinal bone density, protects against postmenopausal hip fractures, and provides these benefits even when therapy is started after age 60. More recently, additional benefits have emerged. Current estrogen and hormone replacement therapy users have a 34% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer and a 20% to 60% reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Until recently, the body of evidence indicated that hormone replacement therapy with estrogen only reduced cardiovascular disease risk by 40% to 50% in healthy patients; whether the findings of 3 ongoing trials will change this conclusion is pending availability of the final results. The many benefits of estrogen and hormone replacement therapy must be weighed against a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer diagnosis with use for 5 or more years, but which disappears following cessation of therapy. Overall, estrogen and hormone replacement therapy improves the quality of life and increases life expectancy for most menopausal women.
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