In an article published Friday in the journals Climacteric and Maturitas, an international group of doctors have issued a statement concluding that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the most effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause – and that its benefits are likely to outweigh any risks for women going through menopause.
The safety of treating menopause symptoms with HRT has been a subject of much debate over the years, but this new consensus statement was released in an effort to help resolve any lingering confusion related to how HRT should be used.
For menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, moodiness, difficulty sleeping and weight gain, the international group of doctors agree that hormone replacement therapy is the most effective treatment. However, there are risks involved with HRT, so the doctors advise consulting with your own physician, according to the statement they released.
What led to the controversy and confusion over HRT started with a decade-old study that found HRT with estrogen and progestin increased the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women by about 25 percent. The finding was so significant that researchers stopped the study early, prompting physicians to change how they prescribed HRT.
However, the new statement says that despite the risks of HRT, the benefits generally outweigh any harm for women under the age of 60, or for those who've been in going through menopause for less than 10 years.
According to the statement, the increased risk of breast cancer from HRT also appears to disappear a few years after treatment is stopped:
The decision to use [HRT] comes down to an individual woman, in consultation with her doctor," said Tobie de Villiers, president of the International Menopause Society, one of the organizations making the statement. "Used properly, [HRT] will give significantly more benefits than harm."
In the statement, doctors recommend low doses of HRT for women whose symptoms of menopause are limited to vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse – and HRT is not recommended for women who've had breast cancer.