Women have been confused about the benefits and risks of postmenopausal estrogen for years. That’s because a study called the Women’s Health Initiative was halted prematurely in 2002. The initial analysis suggested that women taking hormones had an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer.
Now a new analysis of women who took only estrogen after a hysterectomy reveals conflicting results according to the women’s age. Those who received the hormone during their 50’s actually appeared to have a lower risk of heart disease and heart attack. Those who received estrogen in their 70’s did not get such a benefit and appeared to have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The older women had a slightly increased risk of death associated with their use of estrogen. Making sense of these data will be a challenge for women and their physicians.