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Hormone replacement therapy, selective estrogen receptor modulators, and tissue-specific compounds: cardiovascular effects and clinical implications.


In industrialized countries, coronary heart disease (CHD) is not only the leading cause of death in women but of disability as well. Menopause, regardless of age at onset, is associated with a marked increase in CHD risk. Based on epidemiologic studies demonstrating mainly positive biologic effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on CHD risk factors and outcomes, earlier recommendations decreed that most, if not all, postmenopausal women should be treated with long-term HRT. Recent randomized controlled trials with clinical CHD endpoints have shown that previously held dicta may not be accurate. Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such as tamoxifen and raloxifene are alternatives to HRT. SERMs represent a growing class of compounds that act as either estrogen receptor agonists or antagonists in a tissue-selective manner. This pharmacologic profile may offer the opportunity to dissociate favorable cardiovascular effects of estrogen from unfavorable stimulatory effects on the breast and endometrium. The only data available regarding the effects of tamoxifen on cardiovascular events in postmenopausal women are from breast cancer trials. They showed fewer fatal myocardial events in women randomly assigned to tamoxifen compared with women assigned to placebo. Raloxifene is a so-called second-generation SERM. It seems clear that raloxifene increases bone mineral density, has no effect on the endometrium, and holds high promise for the prevention of breast cancer. The effect of raloxifene on cardiovascular disease is uncertain. On the basis of the Multiple Outcomes of Raloxifene Evaluation (MORE) trial, raloxifene may offer some protection to women with cardiovascular disease or to those who are at high risk. Proof that raloxifene reduces the risk of CHD requires a clinical trial with hard clinical endpoints. Such a study is currently underway. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the synthetic 19-nortestosterone derivative tibolone reduces climacteric complaints and prevent osteoporosis without causing menstrual bleeding. Tibolone lowers lipoprotein(a), fibrinogen, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 levels and improves glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and endothelial function; however, it also lowers high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by >20%. The long-term impact of tibolone on the risk of CHD is not known and needs to be studied.


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  • Authors+Show Affiliations


    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Project Aging Women and the Institute for Cardiovascular Research-Vrije Universiteit, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



    Treatments in endocrinology 3:2 2004 pg 105-15


    Cardiovascular Diseases
    Cardiovascular System
    Estrogen Replacement Therapy
    Middle Aged
    Raloxifene Hydrochloride
    Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
    Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article



    PubMed ID