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New Doubts About Estrogen

A new report by an international panel of experts casts serious doubt on the value of hormone replacement for postmenopausal women, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The panel's findings undercut the longstanding assumption that taking estrogen at menopause is a way for women to preserve youth and health, the newspaper said.

Hormone replacement normally consists of estrogen with another hormone, progestin. The treatment has been widely believed to help a variety of ills in postmenopausal women, including heart disease, depression, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease.

An editor of the report, Dr. Nanette K. Wenger, chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, told the Times that three recent controlled trials found that, rather than protecting women from heart attacks and strokes, hormone replacement increased their risk

The report recommends that given the known risks and limited benefits of hormone treatments, each woman and her doctor should weigh her medical history carefully when deciding whether she really needs it, the Times reported.

Drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure are a better way to cut the risk of heart disease for many women, and other non-hormonal drugs may be a better way to prevent bone fractures caused by osteoporosis.

The report was financed by the National Institutes of Health and the Giovanni Loren Zini Medical Science Foundation of Italy. It reviews existing studies, and was compiled by 28 doctors and scientists from the United States, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia.