Hormone Replacement Therapy Controversy
The uproar began in July 2003 when The Women's Health Initiative (WHI), during the largest government study on synthetic hormones ever conducted, halted its research after early results indicated that women using conventional hormone replacement therapy (specifically PremPro), had a much higher risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Critics of the study point out that the WHI study was not representative of women in their 40s and 50s -- women who were likely in the early years of peri or full menopause. In fact, the average age of the women involved in the study was 63, with an average time into menopause of 12 years -- therefore they were more likely to have other risks related to breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Notably, these women were taking PremPro (Premarin and Provera), a synthetic form of HRT.
Estrogen plays an important role in your body, contributing to the softness of the skin and to vaginal lubrication, helping maintain bone density and playing a crucial role in brain function.
Estrogen, however, is a double-edged sword. Too much estrogen without the balancing effects of its bedfellow progesterone, or the wrong kind of estrogen, can indeed be harmful. Having adequate estrogen but too little progesterone is called "estrogen dominance." Both too much and too little estrogen are dangerous scenarios.
In addition, there's a growing concern about xenoestrogens, foreign manmade estrogens that can have toxic effects on the human body. These are found in most pesticides, plastics, acetones (e.g., nail polish remover) and in industrial pollutants such as PCBs. They can be toxic and, unlike natural hormones, they are not efficiently cleared from the body, so they tend to accumulate in the tissue over time. Even coffee can increase estrogen in the body.
If you're experiencing symptoms of menopause or a hormone imbalance, consult with a trusted and open-minded physician who has a background in women's health and a clear interest in your long term well-being.
Armed with accurate information and a doctor who is knowledgeable about HRT, hormone replacement therapy can mean the difference between just adapting to feeling poorly the rest of your life or feeling good.
Dr. Tracy Tranchitella answers questions about hormone replacement therapy.
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