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Epidemiology. 1997 Jan;8(1):59-65.

Cause-specific mortality in women receiving hormone replacement therapy.

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Environmental Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD 20892-7374, USA.


To assess the risks and benefits of menopausal hormone replacement therapy, we followed a 23,346-member, population-based cohort of Swedish women who were prescribed menopausal estrogens for an average of 8.6 years for mortality. Compared with the general population, the standardized mortality ratio for all-cause mortality in this cohort was 0.77 (95% confidence limits = 0.73, 0.81). Deaths in each of the 12 major categories of causes of death except for injuries occurred 12% to 86% less frequently than expected. We examined in detail four specific causes of death according to the type of hormone prescribed, namely weak estrogens (primarily estriol), more potent estrogens (primarily estradiol and conjugated estrogens) in combination with a progestin, and more potent estrogens without a progestin. Mortality from endometrial cancer was not related to the prescription of weak estrogens or an estrogen-progestin combination, but mortality was 40% higher in women prescribed more potent estrogens without a progestin. Women prescribed weak estrogens, more potent estrogens, and the combined estrogen-progestin regimen were at reduced risk of death from ischemic heart disease (standardized mortality ratios of 0.7, 0.6, and 0.4, respectively). The more potent estrogens and the estrogen-progestin combination were associated with a marked reduction in risk of intracerebral hemorrhage (standardize mortality ratios of 0.4 and 0.6, respectively) and "other" cerebrovascular disease, but not other types of stroke. The concern that use of progestins would lead to psychic disorders related to suicide received no support from our results. Breast cancer results are described elsewhere. These data provide little evidence of an adverse effect of the combined estrogen-progestin regimen as compared with estrogens alone on mortality. They do indicate, however, that both selection factors and biology may contribute to the almost across-the-board-reduction in mortality associated with hormone replacement therapy.

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