Menopausal hormone therapy continues in clinical use but questions remain regarding its risks and benefits for chronic disease prevention.
To provide a comprehensive, integrated overview of findings from the two Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) hormone therapy (HT) trials with extended post-intervention follow up.
DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS, AND INTERVENTIONS
27,347 postmenopausal women, age 50–79 years, were enrolled at 40 US centers. Interventions were conjugated equine estrogens (CEE, 0.625 mg/day) with medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA, 2.5 mg/day) for women with an intact uterus (N = 16,608) and CEE alone for women with hysterectomy (N= 10,739), or their placebos. Intervention continued for 5.6 and 7.2 years (median), respectively, with cumulative follow-up of 13 years through September 30, 2010.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES
The primary efficacy and safety outcomes were coronary heart disease (CHD) and invasive breast cancer, respectively. A global index also included stroke, pulmonary embolism, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, hip fracture, and deaths. Secondary and quality-of-life outcomes were also assessed.
During the intervention phase for CEE+MPA, the hazard ratio (HR) for CHD was 1.18 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.95–1.45) and overall risks outweighed benefits, with increases in invasive breast cancer, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and the global index. Other risks included increased dementia (in women >65 years), gallbladder disease, and urinary incontinence, while benefits included decreased hip fractures, diabetes, and vasomotor symptoms. Post-intervention, most risks and benefits dissipated, although some elevation in breast cancer risk persisted (cumulative hazard ratio [HR] =1.28; 95% confidence interval, 1.11–1.48). During intervention for CEE alone, risks and benefits were more balanced, with a HR for CHD of 0.94 (0.78–1.14), increased stroke and venous thrombosis, decreased hip fractures and diabetes, and over cumulative follow-up, decreased breast cancer (HR=0.79 [0.65–0.97]). Neither regimen affected all-cause mortality. With CEE, younger women (50–59 years) had more favorable results for all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, and the global index (nominal P values for trend by age <0.05), but not for stroke and venous thrombosis. Absolute risks of adverse events (measured by the global index) per 10,000 women per year on CEE+MPA ranged from 12 excess cases for age 50–59 to 38 for age 70–79 and, for CEE, from 19 fewer cases for age 50–59 to 51 excess cases for age 70–79. Results for quality of life outcomes in both trials were mixed.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE
Menopausal hormone therapy has a complex pattern of risks and benefits. While appropriate for symptom management in some women, its use for chronic disease prevention is not supported by the WHI randomized trials.
clinical trials.gov Identifier: NCT00000611