Could HRT actually help women to live healthier, longer lives? A new study seems to think so and the results are pretty surprising...
More than 4,200 women took part in the research - which took place over 14 years at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. During this time, doctors discovered that hormone replacement therapy reduces the risk of early death in postmenopausal women by as much as 30%.
Although it is estimated that over a million women take HRT - a drug which treats debilitating menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and depression by providing oestrogen - this new data comes at a time when increasing numbers of women are rejecting it in reponse to reports that the drug can make some women more susceptible to certain cancers.
In light of this, Cedars-Sinal Medical Center's new research, conducted over a longer period of time, makes for an interesting read. It seems to suggest that - overall - those who opt for HRT are healthier for it.
So, what's the thinking behind this new revelation? Well, scientists believe that because the therapy replaces levels of estrogen, it successfully protects the heart during menopause. Because of this, women are less likely to encounter cardiovascular problems.
Specifically, the research suggested that women taking HRT had a 20% higher chance of having a low coronary calcium score, which indicates low likelihood of a heart attack.
"With proper screening and proper follow-up, from a cardiovascular standpoint I believe it is beneficial to take hormone replacement therapy," said lead reseacher Dr Yoav Arnson.
"Our results confirm and enhance previous work in terms of showing lower atherosclerosis [arterial blockage]. In addition, we’ve shown very clear survival benefits of using hormone replacement therapy"
Which begs the question - should more women be embracing HRT in light of this new research? The jury's still out.
As Dr Jasmine Just, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, explained to the Daily Mail:
"HRT is an effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause, but it can also increase the risk of certain cancers.
"Whether or not to use HRT is an individual choice, and it’s important that women have the information they need to make the best decision for them. If you are considering using hormone replacement therapy it’s a good idea to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor."
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