Contact: Tom Capezzuto
UMDNJ Researcher Says Estrogen Offers Little Protection
To Postmenopausal Women Against Heart Attack Risk
--Findings Reported in February Issue of Archives of Internal Medicine--
(2/22/05)—Younger postmenopausal women who use estrogen therapy to treat menopause symptoms may not reduce the risk of developing heart disease, but that risk may increase among older postmenopausal women, says a researcher at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who participated in the study that was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Postmenopausal women in their fifties who have had hysterectomies may benefit from using estrogen therapy to treat menopause symptoms, but the hormone therapy will not provide protection against heart attacks, according to results of the study, published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
These findings are associated with the nationwide Women's Health Initiative study that began in 1993. Dr. John B. Kostis, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, was a principal investigator of the seven-year study.
The study involved 10,739 women in the national study among 40 medical sites, including the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which had participants in the estrogen trial. The study participants had previously undergone hysterectomies, and they were all administered 0.625 milligrams of estrogen, or a placebo, for 6.8 years with a follow-up for two years to gauge the results.
"There is a suggestion of lower coronary heart disease risk with estrogen therapy among women between the ages of 50 and 59, but not enough to say the hormone treatment might reduce the risk of a heart attack in these women," Dr. Kostis said. "There is relatively little or no benefit from using estrogen therapy to prevent heart attacks or lower the risk of coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty in postmenopausal women in this age group."
Dr. Kostis said the study also showed no obvious heart risks or benefits for women between 60 and 69, but there was an 11 percent higher risk of heart attacks in women between 70 and 79.
Health concerns about the use of menopause hormones first surfaced following the results of a National Institutes of Health study published in July 2002, which found that estrogen therapy could trigger heart attacks and breast cancer. and prompted concern and abstinence among many postmenopausal women. But researchers in recent years have refined that theory.
"Younger women seeking estrogen therapy after having a hysterectomy and experiencing menopause should feel no assurance that there is no risk of a cardiac episode, but healthy older women who start the estrogen therapy long after the onset of menopause should be aware that they may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease," Dr. Kostis said.