Hormone replacement therapy: the perspectives for the 21st century.

Nowadays different lines of evidence demonstrate the benefits of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is extremely effective in treating subjective symptoms and can really improve the quality of life of climacteric women.

HRT and dementia: Estrogens are potentially relevant to the pathogenesis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The effects of different progestogens on cognitive functions and Alzheimer’s disease are largely unknown. The prevention of Alzheimer disease might be a major indication to long term HRT. Large prospective, randomized trials will confirm these preliminary data.

HRT and osteoporosis: HRT has been strongly correlated with higher bone mineral density and lower fracture incidence. Definite answers in terms of minimum effective dosages, timing and duration of HRT for fracture prevention are needed.

HRT and cardiovascular disease: Different lines of evidence suggest that HRT can exert cardioprotective effects with substantial reduction of morbidity and mortality for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. The effects and the role of progestogens in cardiovascular disease prevention are still debated. Prospective, randomized, controlled studies are needed to assess the impact of different HRT regimens on cardiovascular events.

HRT and cancer: The major issue in the relationship between HRT and cancer is breast cancer. Long-term and current HRT use are followed by a slight, though significant increase in the risk of breast cancer. Progestogens can modify the cellular response of normal as well as cancer breasts. The possible protective effect of continuous progestogen addition is very interesting and needs further investigation.

Alternative to classical HRT: Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM). SERMs such as raloxifene (RAL) are a new class of drugs that exert site specific estrogenic or antiestrogenic effects in different target tissues. RAL prevents bone loss and reduces serum cholesterol in postmenopausal women. In contrast to estrogen RAL does not stimulate breast or uterine tissues. In vitro RAL is highly effective at inhibiting the growth of estrogen-dependent breast adenocarcinoma cells. SERMs are expected to represent a major breakthrough for postmenopausal health.

CONCLUSION: HRT can be offered either as a preventive tool or as individualized care on the basis of personal needs. New therapeutic options like the SERMs will offer a substantial medical advancement for the treatment of postmenopausal women.

Source: Maturitas 1999 May 31;32(1):11-7

PMID: 10423711, UI: 99352510

(Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Piero Fioretti, University of Pisa, Italy.)

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