Three months after the unexpected end of a huge study of postmenopausal hormone use, a consensus is emerging that there is essentially no use for the drugs in the prevention of chronic ailments that come with age.
Although the hormones have both good and bad effects -- raising the risk for heart attack, breast cancer and blood clots while lowering it for osteoporosis and colon cancer -- their net effect is harmful in terms of disease prevention. They still have a role in the treatment of symptoms of menopause. But how large a role is a matter of dispute.
Those were among the conclusions that emerged from a two-day meeting held this past week at the National Institutes of Health.
"For the community of practitioners, the clear message is: If you're using hormones, try to limit it to short-term treatment for symptoms. It's not a prescription for life -- and that's a big, big change," said Florence Comite, a physician and founder of the women's clinic at Yale University, and one of about 500 medical researchers, clinicians and regulatory officials who attended.
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