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ILAR J. 2004;45(2):139-46.

Hormone replacement therapy and cardiovascular disease: lessons from a monkey model of postmenopausal women.

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Comparative Medicine Clinical Research Center, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.


Concerns exist about the cardiovascular effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in postmenopausal women because results from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) are contradictory. In both of these studies, postmenopausal conjugated equine estrogens + medroxyprogesterone acetate did not reduce risk, and somewhat increased the risk of myocardial infarction in both primary (WHI) and secondary (HERS) prevention. These results appear to contradict numerous observational clinical trials and animal studies, which reported profound beneficial effects of HRT on cardiovascular disease risk. Results of both human and monkey studies indicate that estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)/HRT is effective in inhibiting progression of early stage (fatty streak) atherosclerosis but that ERT/HRT is much less effective in inhibiting progression of more advanced (established plaque) atherosclerosis. Results of these monkey studies are consistent with those of studies in women wherein ERT/HRT was initiated in postmenopausal women with different initial amounts of atherosclerosis. Based on these findings, it is speculated that ERT/HRT may be more cardioprotective in younger postmenopausal women with less coronary artery disease, and less effective in women with established coronary artery disease. Researchers are challenged to define the relative cardiovascular risk/benefit in different populations of postmenopausal women based on differences in age, amounts of pre-existing atherosclerosis, and risk factors.

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