Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Estrogen therapy in younger postmenopausal women linked to less plaque in arteries

Experts caution that heart disease effects remain unclear

New results from a substudy of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Estrogen-Alone Trial show that younger postmenopausal women who take estrogen-alone hormone therapy have significantly less buildup of calcium plaque in their arteries compared to their peers who did not take hormone therapy. Coronary artery calcium is considered a marker for future risk of coronary artery disease.

Results of the WHI Coronary Artery Calcium Study are published in the June 21, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The WHI is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

"These new results offer some reassurance to younger women who have had a hysterectomy and who would like to use hormone therapy on a short-term basis to ease menopausal symptoms," noted Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., NHLBI director. "We must emphasize, however, that these findings do not alter the current recommendations that when hormone therapy is used for menopausal symptoms, it should only be taken at the smallest dose and for the shortest time possible, and hormone therapy should never be used to prevent heart disease."

The new findings are from an ancillary study of 1064 women who were 50-59 years of age at the start of the WHI hormone therapy clinical trial. Participants were randomly assigned to either 0.625 milligrams per day of conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin™) or placebo (inactive pill). Participants took assigned medication for an average of nearly seven and one-half years. After slightly more than one year after treatment ended, researchers used computed tomography (CT scan) to measure the level of calcium plaque in the women's coronary arteries. Those who had taken estrogen were 30 to 40 percent less likely to have measurable levels of coronary artery calcium compared to those on placebo.

"Although our findings lend support to the theory that estrogen may slow early stages of plaque build-up in the coronary arteries, estrogen has complex effects and other known risks," said JoAnn Manson, M.D., chief of Preventive Medicine at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital and lead author of the paper. "The results are consistent with our earlier findings that younger women treated with estrogen had a trend toward fewer heart attacks but, for an individual woman, it remains uncertain whether the benefits of estrogen would outweigh the risks. For this reason, estrogen should not be used for the express purpose of preventing cardiovascular disease, but it may be appropriate for the short-term treatment of moderate-to-severe hot flashes or night sweats among recently menopausal women."

In February 2006, WHI researchers reported that among the women in the estrogen-alone trial who were 50-59 years of age at study entry, women in the estrogen group had a non-significant trend towards lower rates of heart attacks compared to the placebo group, and significantly fewer women in the estrogen group required procedures to re-open clogged arteries. There was no suggestion of cardiovascular benefit in women who were 60 years or older.

"Heart attacks are uncommon among younger women, and the more relevant question is about long-term benefit as women grow older," noted Jacques Rossouw, M.D., chief of the NHLBI Women’s Health Initiative Branch. "Conducting a clinical trial that would start any form of hormone therapy on postmenopausal women at a younger age and follow them for decades – when they would be more likely to have heart attacks – is not feasible.

"We cannot assume that any possible short-term, cardiovascular benefit from hormone therapy to postmenopausal women in their fifties would extend into older ages if they were to continue using hormones," Rossouw cautioned. "We already know that starting hormone therapy in older women increases their risk of heart disease. And long-term hormone therapy has other risks such as strokes and blood clots, and, with the use of combination therapy, breast cancer."

The WHI is a major, 15-year research program designed to address the most frequent causes of death, disability, and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. The principal findings from the WHI hormone therapy trials, which studied 27,347 postmenopausal women on estrogen-alone or estrogen plus progestin, found that the overall risks of hormone therapy outweigh the benefits. Both of these trials were stopped early because of increased health risks and failure to prevent heart disease, a key question of the studies. Even though the risks for coronary heart disease were less pronounced in the estrogen alone trial than in the estrogen-plus–progestin trial, both therapies increased the risk of stroke and of blood clots.

Overall, the estrogen-alone study involved 40 clinical centers and 10,739 generally healthy postmenopausal women ages 50-79 who did not have a uterus. The clinical trial was stopped in February 2004 after approximately 7 years of follow up because of increased risk of stroke and no reduction in risk of coronary heart disease. The study also found an increased risk of blood clots.

The estrogen-plus-progestin study (conducted in postmenopausal women with a uterus) was stopped in 2002 due to an increase in breast cancer. Like estrogen-alone, combination hormone therapy was also found to increase the risk of stroke and blood clots regardless of the women's age or time since menopause. Combination therapy was also found to increase the risk of heart disease in the first few years.

All women who wish to lower their risk of heart disease should make healthy lifestyle choices, such as following a diet low in sodium, saturated fat, transfat and cholesterol; maintaining a healthy weight; engaging in regular physical activity; and not smoking. In addition, they should work with their healthcare provider to identify and manage other known risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes.

NHLBI Communications Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>