A Hormone Therapy Benefit for Postmenopausal Women

Endometrial cancer risk may be lowered by progestin plus estrogen use in postmenopausal women

(RxWiki News) Hormone therapy is often used to ease symptoms like hot flashes in postmenopausal women. But this practice may have another benefit.

A new study found that women who continuously took estrogen plus progestin after menopause had a lower risk of developing endometrial cancer, or cancer that starts in the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium).

Estrogen and progestin are two female sex hormones. After menopause, women's bodies produce less of these hormones. This can cause symptoms like hot flashes and increase the risk for osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones).

For this study, a team of researchers led by Rowan T. Chlebowski, MD, PhD, of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, used data from the Women's Health Initiative to look at 16,608 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 with an intact uterus. All were required to have a normal endometrial biopsy upon entry.

These women were then randomly assigned to daily estrogen plus progestin (given as one pill) or placebo.

After 13 years, 66 women in the hormone therapy group had developed endometrial cancer. By comparison, 95 women in the placebo group had done the same. This translates to a 35 percent reduction in endometrial cancer incidence among women on continuous estrogen-progestin therapy.

Estrogen plus progestin is marketed under the brand names Cyclessa, Alesse, Prempro and others.

This study was published Dec. 14 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Department of Health and Human Services funded this research.

Dr. Chlebowski consulted for the pharmaceutical companies Novartis, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Amgen. These companies make hormone therapy products.

Review Date: 
December 3, 2015