From the Journals

Don’t choose hormones to protect postmenopausal women

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Rely on randomized trials when possible

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised clinicians to consider hormone therapy for the prevention of disease in all women, particularly those at risk for coronary heart disease, Deborah Grady, MD, wrote in an editorial (JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Dec 12. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.7861). Dr. Grady was one of the coauthors of a literature review supporting the American College of Physicians’ recommendation to counsel asymptomatic postmenopausal women about hormone therapy based on data from observational studies. “No randomized trials with clinical outcomes had been conducted,” Dr. Grady said. By 2002, data from three large randomized trials told a different story, and the Task Force recommended against using estrogen alone as a strategy to prevent chronic conditions in postmenopausal women, she noted.

“I believe that the fear of hormone therapy is overblown,” Dr. Grady wrote. “When adequately informed, women with moderate to severe symptoms and without contraindications should be able to take such small risks if hormone therapy improves symptoms and quality of life,” she said.

In fact, professional societies, including the North American Menopause Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Endocrine Society support hormone therapy for symptomatic women who are recently menopausal, said Dr. Grady. However, a key lesson learned from the ongoing research on hormone therapy is the importance of conducting clinical trials that are large enough to identify serious adverse effects, she added.

Dr. Grady is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. She had no financial conflicts to disclose.


 

FROM JAMA

Hormone therapy should not be used to prevent chronic conditions in postmenopausal women, according to updated recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendations were published online Dec. 12 in JAMA.

In the latest recommendation statement, the USPSTF issued D recommendations against using combination estrogen and progestin to prevent chronic conditions in postmenopausal women and against using estrogen only to prevent chronic conditions in postmenopausal women who have undergone hysterectomies (JAMA. 2017 Dec 12. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.18261). A grade D recommendation is defined as “The USPSTF recommends against the service. There is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits.”

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However, the recommendation does not apply to women attempting to manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, noted lead author David C. Grossman, MD, of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle, and his colleagues.

In response to public comments, the USPSTF team made several changes including adjusting the language to clarify that the recommendations apply only to postmenopausal women, and adding tables showing estimates of increased or decreased risk of various outcomes for postmenopausal women receiving different hormone therapies.

Approximately 40,000 women aged 53-79 years were included in an evidence report from Gerald Gartlehner, MD, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his colleagues that accompanied the recommendations (JAMA. 2017 Dec 12. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.16952).

The researchers found that women taking estrogen alone had significantly lower risk of breast cancer, diabetes, and osteoporotic fractures, but significantly higher risk of gallbladder disease, stroke, urinary incontinence, and venous thromboembolism, compared with women taking placebo. In addition, women using a combination of estrogen and progestin had significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer, diabetes, and osteoporotic fractures, but significantly higher risk of breast cancer, probable dementia, gallbladder disease, stroke, urinary incontinence, and venous thromboembolism, compared with women taking placebo.

“Hormone therapy for the primary prevention of chronic conditions in menopausal women is associated with some beneficial effects but also with a substantial increase of risks for harms,” and the current evidence for the risks and benefits of hormone therapy is inconclusive, the researchers said.

The final recommendation remains consistent with the USPSTF draft statement issued earlier in 2017 and with the final recommendation statements issued in 2012.

The researchers had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.

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