There's so much confusion and fear surrounding the issue of hormone replacement therapy. For years, doctors recommended women supplement reduced estrogen and progesterone levels after menopause, not only to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms of "the change," but also to lower their risk of heart disease (against which hormones were thought to be protective).

Then, in 2002, a landmark study called the Women's Health Initiative found that hormone replacement therapy increased the risks of cardiovascular disease, dementia and cancer--so doctors stopped prescribing hormones. Now, more than a decade later, some doctors are taking less of a hard line, prescribing HRT to post-menopausal women under the age of 59, for short-term relief of menopause symptoms.

Even pro-hormone doctors still advise caution, though: breast cancer risks jump up after three years of use, and people with clotting disorders or a history of breast cancer should never use HRT. The bottom line? With guidance from their own doctors, women should decide for themselves what makes them feel most comfortable.



Harvard Health Letters: Is hormone therapy safe again?