Osteoporosis is a major cause of disability in older women. Estrogen therapy is often prescribed to prevent osteoporosis. However, many women are reluctant to take hormone therapy because of the increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and deep vein blood clots. Now, new research finds a lower dosage of estrogen increases bone density in women without possibly causing the problems typically associated with the standard dose of estrogen therapy.
For the study, researchers from the University of Connecticut investigated the effects of one quarter of the dose of estrogen typically prescribed for conventional hormone therapy. Researchers included 167 women older than 65 in the study. The women were randomly assigned to receive the smaller amount of estrogen or placebo. Researchers measured the bone mineral density of the hip, spine, wrist and the total body every year for three years. They also looked at markers for bone resorption and bone formation during the study.
Researchers found women who were on the low dose of estrogen had an increase in their bone mineral density at all the sites measured compared to women on the placebo. They found the markers for bone loss were also significantly decreased in women taking the low-dose estrogen compared to the placebo group. Furthermore, researchers report the number of adverse effects was similar in both groups.
Study authors conclude these results show a low dose of estrogen is effective at preventing bone loss. They hypothesize that lowering the dose of estrogen may also reduce the number of adverse events.