Are Estrogen Fears Justified?

GENERIC 041802, Menopause Womens health, JM, story woman health

In what's known as an epidemiologic survey, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked back at a group of 44,000 women who were part of a larger study on breast cancer done between 1979 and 1988.

The researchers concluded that long-term estrogen use increased risk of ovarian cancer by 60 percent, after 329 of the women in the study developed ovarian cancer.

"This is certainly more bad news for hormone replacement therapy," says Dr. Kenneth Noller.

But, as CBS News Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports, doctors like Steven Goldstein are getting a little irritated with that assessment.

"This is not going to affect how I treat my patients who are going through transitional menopausal symptoms," says Goldstein.

Goldstein, a menopause specialist, now spends much of his day reminding patients like Barbara Solomon about the advantages of hormones.

He believes the latest data prove little since it was an epidemiologic survey and not a randomized trial.

"It was not ever set up to be a study of ovarian cancer," Goldstein says.

But in a nation currently obsessed with the safety of hormones, he says, the medical journals are guilty of capitalizing on fears for publicity.

"If they (had) published this three months ago ... I don't think you'd be interviewing me right now," Goldstein says.

The bottom line for Goldstein and many doctors like him is this: You have to practice menopausal medicine one patient at a time.

Solomon says she'll "absolutely" take the risks.

Data now supports the notion that hormones should no longer be used to prevent other health problems. To manage menopause short term they remain a viable option and, according to doctors, can be considered without fear.