The People's Perspective on Medicine

HRT Boosts Risk of Kidney Stones

Menopausal hormone replacement therapy has come under a lot of scrutiny during the last ten years because of the Women’s Health Initiative. This government-funded research was designed to determine the benefits and risks of HRT. It made headlines when the data showed an increased risk of cardiovascular problems among women taking hormones. There was also an increased risk of breast cancer. Additional data collected during this study now show that women on estrogen are more susceptible to kidney stones. Those who continued taking HRT throughout the study increased their risk of stones by 39 percent. Women’s average risk of kidney stones at this age is about 5 to 7 percent. With HRT that went up to 8.5 to 10 percent. The investigators urge women and their doctors to weigh this risk when making decisions about HRT use.

[Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 11, 2010]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I am somewhat taken aback by how the statistics were stated in this article. To see the number 39% increase is indeed startling. But that is based on only a additional low difference of only 3% of what looks like a very low risk. [ 8.5 to 10 risk minus 5 to 7 % = 3 additional.] I am not a statistician but that does not seem like a significant difference.
But when stated as 39 the difference only looks big. [ from 5 to 7 divided by 8.5 to 10]. Please correct me if I am wrong. If not, please advise by restating this more clearly to our People’s Pharmacy audience. This is the very first time that I have voted a 1 rating on helpful voting or should I say an 80 % difference of 1 compared to 5 or better yet 500 % of 5 compared to 1 if I went that direction.
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THIS IS ACTUALLY A GREAT ILLUSTRATION OF HOW TRICKY MEDICAL STATISTICS CAN BE. USUALLY ALL YOU READ IN THE NEWSPAPER IS THE RELATIVE RISK: IE, 39 PERCENT REDUCTION. WE THINK THE ABSOLUTE RISK IS ALSO WORTH KNOWING.
AS YOU SAID, 39 PERCENT LOOKS HUGE–BUT GOING FROM A RISK OF APPROXIMATELY 6 IN 100 TO A RISK OF PERHAPS 9 IN 100 DOES NOT LOOK VERY IMPRESSIVE. 9 IN 100 IS ALMOST 1 IN 10, THOUGH, WHICH IS IN FACT RATHER A HIGH RISK OF GETTING A KIDNEY STONE IN THE COURSE OF A YEAR OR TWO.

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