Don t fear HRT: Alternative treatments don t work

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Last week we reported on findings from a study that showed soy had no beneficial effects on reducing menopausal symptoms. Research on other nonprescription alternatives such as flaxseed, black cohosh, red clover, and botanicals has also arrived at similarly disappointing conclusions. This is unfortunate, since so many women turn to these supplements out of a misplaced fear that treatment with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and breast cancer. These misconceptions stem from the 2002 Women s Health Initiative (WHI) study, which reported on the largely exaggerated association between HRT and adverse health effects an association that is, unfortunately, still widely accepted by many women and doctors.

Now, though, physicians such as Dr. Holly Thacker, director of the center of specialized women s health at the Cleveland Clinic, are trying to get the word out that HRT is safe and effective, and the risks don t necessarily apply to the typical woman with menopausal symptoms. Most doctors agree that there s no reason to be turned off from considering such therapy to gain relief from hot flashes, which affect 75 percent of menopausal women.

As ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava points out, The WHI study changed the picture for many women, and unnecessarily so. A lot of women try alternative menopause treatments that simply don t work, she says. It s especially important for younger women with severe symptoms to know that they can use HRT.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom notes that this is just another of many examples when natural or herbal therapies fail to remedy whatever ailment they re supposed to fix. This list is getting very long.