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Bone. 2003 Jul;33(1):159-66.

Effect of withdrawal of hormone replacement therapy on bone mass and bone turnover: the OFELY study.

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  • 1INSERM Research Unit 403, Pavillon F, E. Herriot Hospital, 69437 Lyon cedex 03, France.


The beneficial effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on bone mineral density (BMD) and bone turnover are well documented but whether HRT withdrawal is followed by an accelerated rate of bone loss is still controversial. We analyzed 26 women who have withdrawn HRT during a 6-year follow-up of the OFELY cohort. They were compared with three groups of women from the same cohort: one hundred four healthy postmenopausal women who continued HRT during the 6-year follow-up, 78 untreated postmenopausal women matched for age, and 31 untreated women within 5 years of menopause. Bone markers [serum osteocalcin (Intact OC), bone alkaline phosphatase (Bone ALP), and serum CTX] were performed annually during 4 years and bone mineral density (BMD) was measured at the forearm (DXA) during 6 years. Withdrawal of HRT was followed by a significant bone loss with an annual rate ranged from -0.7 to -1.6% at the radius according to the skeletal site and by a marked increase of bone markers after 6 months: +36 % for osteocalcin, +23% for bone alkaline phosphatase, and +120% for serum CTX (P < 0.05 to P < 0.001). In contrast, in the HRT continuing group, there was no bone loss and no substantial change of bone markers over 4 years. The rate of bone loss after withdrawal of HRT was significantly greater than in postmenopausal women matched for age who never received HRT (2.2 to 2.8 times higher according to the radius area) and not different as compared to the accelerated bone loss observed in untreated women within 5 years of menopause. We conclude that in postmenopausal women who have been on HRT for 6 years, cessation of treatment results in a rapid increase of bone turnover and a rate of bone loss similar to early postmenopausal women during the subsequent 4 years and greater than untreated women of the same age.

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