Conference Coverage

Time to take the fear out of the hormone therapy conversation


AT NAMS 2017

“Hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for hot flashes,” said Dr. Pinkerton, and using HT improves sleep quality and duration in women with bothersome nighttime hot flashes.

Fracture prevention

Data from the Women’s Health Initiative showed a highly significant 33% reduction in hip fractures for women using both estrogen alone and estrogen with progestogen. “That seems to get forgotten,” Dr. Pinkerton said. Though HT’s osteoporosis and fracture prevention effects stop when HT is discontinued, there’s no evidence of elevated fracture risk above baseline in women who have used HT and then stopped.

“Younger women may need higher doses to protect bone, but make sure you get adequate endometrial protection if you do that,” said Dr. Pinkerton, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia.

Unapproved uses

“Hormone therapy is not recommended at any age to prevent or treat cognition or dementia,” said Dr. Pinkerton, citing a lack of data to support its use for these reasons. Observational data may show some reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease in women who use HT at younger ages or soon after menopause, she said.

Though HT users have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, diabetes prevention is not a Food and Drug Administration–approved indication for HT. Abdominal fat accumulation and weight gain may be reduced by HT as well, Dr. Pinkerton said.

Similarly, there are no data to support the use of HT for the treatment of clinical depression. Perimenopausal – but not postmenopausal – women may see some benefit from estrogen therapy; progestins may actually contribute to mood disturbance, she said.

Special populations

“Systemic hormone therapy is not recommended for survivors of breast cancer,” Dr. Pinkerton said. Any consideration for systemic HT in this population should include the oncologist, and only be entertained after other nonhormonal options have been tried, she said.

Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or with the BRCA mutation, do not appear to have their risk increased by the use of HT, though the ovarian cancer data are limited and observational, Dr. Pinkerton said.

The NAMS position statement also addresses the use of HT in other special populations, including survivors of other cancers and women who have primary ovarian insufficiency or early menopause, BRCA-positive women who have undergone oophorectomy, and those over age 65 years.

“The recommendation to routinely discontinue systemic hormone therapy after age 65 is not supported by data,” Dr. Pinkerton said. “I would tell you that there’s a lack of good data about prolonged duration. What I tell patients is, we really are in another data-free zone.” She recommends an individualized approach that balances benefits and risks and includes ongoing surveillance.

New message

“So what do I want us to do? I want us to change the message,” she said. Rather than advocating for HT to be used in “the lowest dose, for the shortest period of time,” she said the new message should be for women to use “appropriate hormone therapy to meet their treatment goals.”

The bottom line? After accounting for women who should avoid HT for specific contraindications, “benefits are likely to outweigh risks for symptomatic women who initiate hormone therapy when aged younger than 60 years and within 10 years of menopause,” Dr. Pinkerton said.

Dr. Pinkerton reported that she has received grant or research support from TherapeuticsMD.

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