What is Hormone Replacement Therapy, and is it safe?

Hormone Replacement Therapy is a treatment that was widely-used in the past for women going through menopause.  Examples of Hormone Replacement Therapy medications include progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.  Hormone replacement is also used for individuals undergoing a sex change.

Why is this treatment used?  In women, Hormone Replacement Therapy is used to relieve symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, and can help prevent osteoporosis.

What is the risk of Hormone Replacement Therapy?  Hormone Replacement Therapy was widely used in the past.  Then, there were two studies in 2002 and 2003 that linked this therapy to breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer.  The risk seems highest in those who take this treatment for more than 5 years.  Those patients may have up to a 20-30% increase in breast cancer.  The studies have also found an  increased risk of blood clots and stroke for women on Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Since less women are on Hormone Replacement Therapy now, has the risk of breast cancer dropped for our population?  Yes, the risk of breast cancer has decreased approximately 9% since Hormone Replacement Therapy prescriptions have decreased.

What about transgender patients?  Current studies have not demonstrated significant safety concerns at this time.  Studies are ongoing.

What about bio-identical hormones that are advertised as natural, are they safe?  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that these products have the same basic ingredients of estrogen and progesterone, and carry the same risk.

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