U.S. Women Might Overuse Treatments for Symptoms Attributed to Menopause, NIH Panel Says
U.S. women might be overusing treatments for symptoms attributed to menopause, including hormone therapies that pose risks of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer, an NIH consensus panel said on Wednesday, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The panel said that hormone therapies can be effective for women with menopause symptoms that severely diminish quality of life but added that all women should consider the possibility of serious side effects before deciding on treatment.
Panel Chair Carol Mangione of the University of California-Los Angeles said that the hormone estrogen is the most effective treatment for menopause-related symptoms, but she added that "estrogen has some potential big health trade-offs." Mangione said that women with moderate to severe symptoms who choose to use estrogen should start with the lowest dose that seems likely to work.
The panel's draft statement said women with elevated risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cardiovascular disease should strongly consider therapies other than hormone replacement therapy.
The panel "found very few symptoms that are tied to the natural fluctuations in hormone levels during menopause," which made recommendations difficult, Mangione said. She added, "[T]his distinction may have serious implications for women's treatment decisions."
The panel said that more research is needed on other treatment options, including the dietary supplement DHEA, the hormone Tibolone used in Canada and Europe and antidepressants (Schmid, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/23).
Several broadcast programs reported on HRT and menopause:
- ABCNews' "World News Tonight": The segment includes comments from Dr. Bruce Ettinger of the University of California-San Francisco; Mangione; and Joann Pinkerton from the University of Virginia Health System (McKenzie, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 3/23).
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Mangione and a woman who takes HRT (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 3/23). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Ettinger; Dr. Robert Friedman, a researcher at Wayne State University; and Dr. Gail Greendale of UCLA (Aubrey, "All Things Considered," NPR, 3/23). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Dr. Jim Brodsky, a physician specializing in alternative medicine; Dr. Tyrana Lowdog, a researcher from the University of Arizona who spoke at the NIH conference; pharmacist Art Weinstein; and a woman who supports clinical trials to study natural hormone therapy (Aubrey, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/21). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.