Benefits Seen In Hormone Use Early In Menopause

-- A new study may reassure some women considering short-term use of hormones to relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Starting low-dose treatment early in menopause made women feel better and did not seem to raise heart risks during the four-year study.However, the research didn't address the risk of breast cancer, perhaps the biggest fear women have about hormones since a landmark study a decade ago. The new one was too small and too short for that.Still, it is the first fresh research in many years on the sometimes confusing effects of hormones on women's health. The advice remains the same: Use hormones only for severe symptoms not to prevent bone loss or aging-related problems at the. lowest dose for the shortest time possible."The benefits outweigh the risks when hormone therapy is used for symptom management with relatively short-term treatment," said Dr. JoAnn Manson, preventive medicine chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She was a study leader and will discuss - hormonal therapy - results Wednesday at a conference of the North American Menopause Society in Orlando, Fla.For decades, doctors believed hormone pills helped prevent heart problems and were good for bones and minds. That changed in - prostate cancer hormone therapy - 2002, when a big federal study was stopped because women taking estrogen-progestin pills had higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer.Critics pounced on the study's limitations. Participants were well past menopause 63 on average and most were not seeking symptom relief. Many were overweight and smokers, and at higher risk of heart disease to start with. Only one type of pill in one dose was tested.Women who could take estrogen alone those who had had hysterectomies did not have the risks that women on the combination hormone pills did. In fact, they had lower rates of breast cancer.Women need to realize the new study is much less definitive than the big federal one that found more lung and breast cancer deaths among women on estrogen-progestin pills, said one researcher involved in the earlier work, Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. It would be unwise to try to prevent certain health problems by using a treatment "that increased the two leading causes of cancer deaths in women," he said.Manson agreed that hormones should be used only for severe symptoms. Two study participants found they helped."My mood leveled out. I found - bio identical hormone replacement - that I was just generally calmer" on the estrogen patch, said Kathy Smerko, 60, a nurse practitioner from Phoenix.Dianne Fraser, 56, an accountant from suburban Boston, said the patch eliminated the drenching sweats that woke her in the night. She was able to quit treatment after five years and seldom has problems now."It was enough to get me through that crazy period" right after menopause began, she said.___Online:___