Is Hormone Replacement Therapy a Risk?; September 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Davidson; 1 Page(s)
Thanks to advances in public health and medicine, the average American woman will be postmenopausal for about one third of her life. As a result, she will ultimately need to make a decision about hormone replacement therapy. During the 1960s, doctors began to prescribe a short-term regimen of estrogen to control menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. More recently, physicians have realized that long-term use can reduce illness and death from heart disease and bone loss (osteoporosis). These potential benefits, however, are balanced to some extent by a possible increased risk of cancer, especially of the breast and uterus.
Indeed, it is largely fear of breast cancer, the most common cancer in women in the U.S., that fuels the debate about hormone replacement. But in weighing the risks and benefits, we must recall that heart disease is the most prevalent cause of death for American women. In 1992 approximately 250,000 women died of coronary disease. Cancer ran a close second at 245,000 deaths for all types; the top three--lung, breast and colorectal cancer-- account for 55,000, 43,000 and 29,000 deaths, respectively.