Patching up hormone replacement therapy

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As we ve reported several times, estrogen replacement therapy either with or without progesterone is currently the most effective means of treating menopausal symptoms. Now, a study just published in the journal Menopause has found that a skin patch that delivers the hormone has even fewer risks than the already quite safe standard method of delivery, pills. The general term for such hormone supplementation is hormone replacement therapy, or HRT.

In the current study, a group of Canadian researchers examined health insurance claims from over 54,000 women who had used HRT at some point between 2002 and 2009; roughly half had used estrogen-only pills, while the other half had used an estrogen patch. It turned out that those who used estrogen-only patches were one-third less likely to develop blood clots in the legs or lungs: 0.4 percent versus 0.6 percent.

While these blood clots, known as deep vein thrombosis, are infrequent side-effects of hormone replacement therapy, the condition is serious. Therefore, any means of reducing the likelihood of developing these clots, which can travel to the lungs and result in a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, is welcome. Perhaps the only downside of the hormone patch is its greater expense at least for now when compared to the pill form of hormone therapy.

Hormone replacement therapy is really the only reliable means of treating menopausal symptoms, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. The fact that these patches decrease this particular risk associated with the therapy is all the more reason to use it.