Long term hormone therapy for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women

Cochrane Review by Farquhar CM, Marjoribanks J, Lethaby A, Lamberts Q, Suckling JA and the Cochrane HT Study Group

This record should be cited as: Farquhar CM, Marjoribanks J, Lethaby A, Lamberts Q, Suckling JA and the Cochrane HT Study Group. Long term hormone therapy for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD004143. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004143.pub2.

ABSTRACT

Title

Long term hormone therapy for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women

Background

Hormone therapy (HT) is widely used for controlling menopausal symptoms. It has also been used for the management and prevention of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and dementia in older women but the evidence supporting its use for these indications is largely observational.

Objectives

To assess the effect of long-term HT on mortality, heart disease, venous thromboembolism, stroke, transient ischaemic attacks, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder disease, cognitive function, dementia, fractures and quality of life.

Search strategy

We searched the following databases up to November 2004: the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Trials Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, Biological Abstracts. Relevant non-indexed journals and conference abstracts were also searched.

Selection criteria

Randomised double-blind trials of HT (oestrogens with or without progestogens) versus placebo, taken for at least one year by perimenopausal or postmenopausal women.

Data collection and analysis

Fifteen RCTs were included. Trials were assessed for quality and two review authors extracted data independently. They calculated risk ratios for dichotomous outcomes and weighted mean differences for continuous outcomes. Clinical heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis for most outcomes.

Main results

All the statistically significant results were derived from the two biggest trials. In relatively healthy women, combined continuous HT significantly increased the risk of venous thromboembolism or coronary event (after one year's use), stroke (after 3 years), breast cancer (after 5 years) and gallbladder disease. Long-term oestrogen-only HT also significantly increased the risk of stroke and gallbladder disease. Overall, the only statistically significant benefits of HT were a decreased incidence of fractures and colon cancer with long-term use. Among relatively healthy women over 65 years taking continuous combined HT, there was a statistically significant increase in the incidence of dementia. Among women with cardiovascular disease, long-term use of combined continuous HT significantly increased the risk of venous thromboembolism.

Authors' conclusions

HT is not indicated for the routine management of chronic disease. We need more evidence on the safety of HT for menopausal symptom control, though short-term use appears to be relatively safe for healthy younger women.

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