Hormone-replacement therapy could increase the risks of coronary heart disease in healthy women, and it has no effect on patients suffering from atherosclerosis, according to two studies released yesterday.
The studies, published in the Aug. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, expand on the discouraging results of previous studies on the use of estrogen-and-progestin-based hormone replacement therapy to help combat heart disease.
This study and others like it "clearly tell us that estrogen and progestin should not be used to treat atherosclerosis in women who already have cardiovascular disease," noted Dr. Howard Hodis, who led the study. Hormone therapy in healthy women is most often used to ease the uncomfortable side effects of menopause, such as hot flashes.
The results of the other study released yesterday offered equally little encouragement for healthy women. The study of 16,000 women, expected to take eight years, was called to a halt after five years because the risks were found to outweigh the benefits, according to officials at Harvard Medical School.
The researchers found there was an increased risk of heart disease after the first year of estrogen and progestin therapy in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women. "This treatment should not be prescribed for the prevention of cardiovascular disease," the authors concluded.