Nature Reviews Endocrinology 9, 216-227 (April 2013) | doi:10.1038/nrendo.2013.17
Subject Category: Reproductive endocrinology (including placental hormones)
Focus on: The Ageing Endocrine System
Postmenopausal hormone therapy: risks and benefits
Serge Rozenberg, Jean Vandromme & Caroline Antoine About the authors
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Postmenopausal hormone therapy (PMHT) is used for the relief of menopausal symptoms, but the dosage has varied greatly throughout its existence. By the end of the 1990s, PMHT was mainly used to prevent chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and dementia, and large prevention trials were undertaken in this context. Following the initial negative reports of these trials, use of PMHT dramatically decreased. These reports noted surprisingly increased risks, notably of coronary heart disease, stroke and breast cancer, in people who used PMHT. Nowadays, considering the currently available data, it seems that an important distinction should be made between the treatment of climacteric symptoms in young, generally healthy, postmenopausal women and the prevention of chronic diseases in elderly women. PMHT seems to be beneficial and safe for postmenopausal symptomatic women aged <60 years. Treatments with a high safety profile should be the preferred option, including low-dose PMHT, oestrogen-only therapy in women who have had a hysterectomy, and vaginal oestrogen therapy for women with atrophic vaginitis. Nonandrogenic progestin might have a reduced thrombotic and breast cancer risk, and transdermal oestrogen could have a reduced thrombotic risk. Nevertheless, PMHT should not be used for the prevention of chronic diseases in the elderly (>70 years old) owing to the increased risk of stroke and breast cancer in these patients.