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Maturitas. 2005 Sep 16;52(1):1-10.

New evidence regarding hormone replacement therapies is urgently required transdermal postmenopausal hormone therapy differs from oral hormone therapy in risks and benefits.

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University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Institute of Cardiology, Modena, Italy.


Controversies about the safety of different postmenopausal hormone therapies (HTs) started 30 years ago and reached a peak in 2003 after the publication of the results from the Women Health Initiative (WHI) trial and the Million Women Study (MWS) [Writing group for the women's health initiative investigations. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women. JAMA 2002;288:321-33; Million women study collaborators. Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the million women study. Lancet 2003;362:419-27]. The single HT formulation used in the WHI trial for non hysterectomized women-an association of oral conjugated equine estrogens (CEE-0.625 mg/day) and a synthetic progestin, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA-2.5 mg/day)-increases the risks of venous thromboembolism, cardiovascular disease, stroke and breast cancer. The MWS, an observational study, showed an increased breast cancer risk in users of estrogens combined with either medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), norethisterone, or norgestrel. It is unclear and questionable to what extent these results might be extrapolated to other HRT regimens, that differ in their doses, compositions and administration routes, and that were not assessed in the WHI trial and the MWS. Significant results were achieved with the publication of the WHI estrogen-only arm study [Anderson GL, Limacher M, Assaf AR, et al. Effects of conjugated equine estrogen in postmenopausal women with hysterectomy: the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2004;291:1701-1712] in which hormone therapy was reserved to women who had carried out hysterectomy. What emerged from this study will allow us to have some important argument to develop.

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