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Dangers Of Hormone Replacement?

Hormone replacement therapy, a common treatment for menopausal women, is even more dangerous than previously thought, according to a new study.

The Journal of the American Medical Association's study says hormone replacement therapy, HRT, greatly increases a patient's chance of breast cancer.

Dr. Erika Schwartz, author of "The Hormone Solution: Naturally Alleviate Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance from Adolescence Through Menopause" and an advocate of natural hormones to ameliorate the symptoms of menopause, visited The Early Show to discuss the finding of the new research.

HRT has been widely used in post-menopausal women because many doctors believe the treatment eases hot flashes and other acute symptoms of menopause, as well as increases bone density, protects against heart disease and stroke, and delays the onset of dementia.

Schwartz says she believes the new study is a continuation of a Women's Health Initiative study of more than 16,000 women. That study was halted prematurely last year when it was seen HRT increased the risk of breast cancer while providing no benefit against heart disease and stroke.

As a result of the study last year, many women abandoned HRT — leading to a significant number of them to develop symptoms of hormone imbalance, sexual dysfunction and hot flashes. But, Schwartz says, a stopping HRT altogether may be a mistake for post-menopausal women. She says older women need methods to supplement the hormones rather than replace the ones they lost because of aging.

Some post-menopausal women may use black cohash, herbal supplements and vitamins as alternatives to HRT. Schwartz believes some may work for a time, but they are questionable because they're not FDA approved and they don't work for long. She advices post-menopausal women to work with a physician to help fight the symptoms of menopause. Also, Schwartz says, the right diet, exercise and lifestyle are critical for post-menopausal women.

Natural hormones, such as micronized progestin, also offers help for older women, according to Schwartz. Some are commercially available, but most are compounded in pharmacies, which can vary the accuracy of the active ingredients. The problem, Schwartz says, is nobody standardized the natural hormones.