Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy, the administration of medicine that contains female hormones with the intention of replacing those that the body is no longer producing, has been in use for a very long time. It was almost a standard prescription for all menopausal women. But with time there were studies that came to show that the use of hormone therapy had more risks than the benefits hoped to derive from Hormone replacement therapy. This has made more doctors to shy away from giving such prescription. There are however some scientist who still think hormone therapy could still be good for some.

Let us take a look at what are some of the risks associated with the use of hormone replacement therapy as means of combating menopause related symptoms.

HRT and Uterine Cancer

Research conducted shows that menopausal women have their uterus and only use estrogen to manage menopause are at a greater risk of uterine cancer also known and endometrial cancer. Most doctors these days would prefer a combination of estrogen and progestin. Progestin in this case protects against uterine cancer. Those without a uterus cannot get uterine cancer. In the event a doctor prescribes estrogen only, they would need to annually check for any signs of uterine cancer as they administer their treatment.

HRT and Breast Cancer

The use of HRT in menopausal women, particularly the use of EPT, has also been associated with an increase* in breast cancer risk. This risk is however minimal as it stands at 8 cases for breast cancer for every 10,000 women. Women using HRT for more than 5 years stand a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

HRT and Heart Disease

Research from the Women’s Health Initiative revealed that the use of HRT did not prevent heart attack even when it lowers the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and raises HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Among women who have heart disease, the use of HRT increases* the risk of having more heart attacks. Even among women who have no known heart disease condition, the use of HRT increases* the risk of heart attack.

HRT and Stroke

According to the Women Health’s Initiative, the use of hormone replacement therapy was found to increase* the risk of stroke. Among 10,000 patients treated in a year, 8 of them reported stroke issues. This figure is minimal but still portrays some level of risk. This was especially so when compared to those women who used a placebo pill. The WHI advises that unless one has severe menopausal symptoms that really require extreme measures, they are better off using other alternative medication and not HRT.

HRT and Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

There is a greater likelihood of women on hormone replacement therapy having more and abnormal vaginal bleeding compared to those not on hormone replacement therapy. The bleeding could be more than what is cyclically expected, it could also be excessively heavy, and last a much longer duration. And in some cases, the abnormal bleeding lasts for more than one year. With such abnormal bleeding, it could be important to rule out the possibility of have endometrial cancer. Samples are taken for the uterine lining to ascertain whether this is true or not. In the event cancer is ruled out, the doctor will have to adjust the dosage of the medication to make it friendly for normal bleeding.

HRT and Blood Clots

The risk of blood clots has for long been associated with the use of Hormone replacement therapy. Women on birth control pills that contain higher estrogen amounts are said to have a higher risk compared to other women. Those who smoke in addition to using estrogen further increase* their risks. When estrogen patches are used, the risk is lower.

HRT and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, loss in bone density, has been for a long time associated with declining estrogen levels. When estrogen is combined with progestin, the risk of osteoporosis was greatly reduced* among menopausal women. Studies indicated that the risk is greatly reduced* when the use of the combined medication is continued for as long as is needed. With the stoppage of medication, there is a small percentage of risk for Osteoporosis.

HRT and Colon Cancer

Evidence gathered from more than ten observational studies carried out showed that there was a considerable reduction* in risk of colon cancer associated with the use of hormone replacement therapy. There are however no published clinical data on the relationship between colon cancer and HRT.

HRT and Memory Loss

Observational studies done on the relationship of HRT and memory loss indicate that women who use HRT have improved* their memory compared to those who are not using estrogen or in combination with any other treatment. These results have not been confirmed by the two most critical random clinical studies that were done on women. The first studies were done on women with early Alzheimer’s disease, and the second on cognitive impact women.

Therefore there is no evidence to support the notion that taking estrogen for one year or more than a year could help improve* or keep intact and prevent in decline in memory.

Venomous Thromboembolic Disease

Studies have shown that the use of hormone replacement therapy increase* the risk of venomous thromboembolic disease by two to four times. For every 250 women on hormone replacement therapy, one of them runs the risk of venomous thromboembolic disease. Statistics also indicate that one in 750 older women is the annual rate for those older women who do not take hormone replacement therapy.


Despite the many studies going on to confirm the effects of the use of hormone replacement therapy, there is an evident risk involved in the use of hormone replacement therapy. Women who may want to use hormone replacement therapy should be keen to find out if they are the best candidates for the therapy.
It is better for menopausal women to consider lifestyle changes as well as alternative medication that may have minimal side effects but still grant the replacement of hormones in the body.

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Contributor : Kathy Parks (Consumer Health Digest)

Kathy Parks is a graduate who enjoys writing on different topics including men’s and women’s health, beauty and fitness. Being a mother and wife-she drives so much strength and inspiration from the desire to have a healthy family. Her health writings are done with the same passion-to ensure healthy family members. She is contributing to Consumer Health Digest for different categories.

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