Hormone therapy in the postmenopausal years: considering benefits and risks in clinical practice.Hum Reprod Update. 2021 10 18; 27(6):1115-1150.HR
Menopausal symptoms can be very distressing and considerably affect a woman's personal and social life. It is becoming more and more evident that leaving bothersome symptoms untreated in midlife may lead to altered quality of life, reduced work productivity and, possibly, overall impaired health. Hormone therapy (HT) for the relief of menopausal symptoms has been the object of much controversy over the past two decades. At the beginning of the century, a shadow was cast on the use of HT owing to the concern for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risks, and breast cancer, arising following publication of a large randomized placebo-controlled trial. Findings of a subanalysis of the trial data and extended follow-up studies, along with other more modern clinical trials and observational studies, have provided new evidence on the effects of HT.
OBJECTIVE AND RATIONALE
The goal of the following paper is to appraise the most significant clinical literature on the effects of hormones in postmenopausal women, and to report the benefits and risks of HT for the relief of menopausal symptoms.
A Pubmed search of clinical trials was performed using the following terms: estrogens, progestogens, bazedoxifene, tibolone, selective estrogen receptor modulators, tissue-selective estrogen complex, androgens, and menopause.
HT is an effective treatment for bothersome menopausal vasomotor symptoms, genitourinary syndrome, and prevention of osteoporotic fractures. Women should be made aware that there is a small increased risk of stroke that tends to persist over the years as well as breast cancer risk with long-term estrogen-progestin use. However, healthy women who begin HT soon after menopause will probably earn more benefit than harm from the treatment. HT can improve bothersome symptoms, all the while conferring offset benefits such as cardiovascular risk reduction, an increase in bone mineral density and a reduction in bone fracture risk. Moreover, a decrease in colorectal cancer risk is obtainable in women treated with estrogen-progestin therapy, and an overall but nonsignificant reduction in mortality has been observed in women treated with conjugated equine estrogens alone or combined with estrogen-progestin therapy. Where possible, transdermal routes of HT administration should be preferred as they have the least impact on coagulation. With combined treatment, natural progesterone should be favored as it is devoid of the antiapoptotic properties of other progestogens on breast cells. When beginning HT, low doses should be used and increased gradually until effective control of symptoms is achieved. Unless contraindications develop, patients may choose to continue HT as long as the benefits outweigh the risks. Regular reassessment of the woman's health status is mandatory. Women with premature menopause who begin HT before 50 years of age seem to have the most significant advantage in terms of longevity.
In women with bothersome menopausal symptoms, HT should be considered one of the mainstays of treatment. Clinical practitioners should tailor HT based on patient history, physical characteristics, and current health status so that benefits outweigh the risks.