Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thoughts About Conventional Hormones

I just returned from a lecture where I was teaching doctors about bioidentical hormones.  I presented the data on the Women’s Health Initiative and I was thinking about the results of this study on the flight home.  I thought I would share some of these thoughts with you.
The Women’s Health Initiative was a large study involving over 16,000 women who were randomly assigned to take the conventional, synthetic hormones Premarin and Provera or placebo.  The study was supposed to last for 8.5 years, but was stopped early (at 5.2 years) because the women in the treatment group (those taking Premarin and Provera) developed serious side effects.  Compared to women who took a placebo, those in the treatment group had a 26% increase in invasive breast cancer, a 41% increase in stroke, a 205% increase in Alzheimer’s disease and a 2100% increase in pulmonary embolism.  Due to these problems, women were told to stop taking the hormones. 
Those numbers were not a big shock to me.  Those of us who had been writing and speaking out against the use of conventional hormones knew they were problematic.  For nearly 25 years, before the completion of the Women’s Health Initiative, the powers-that-be assured women that conventional hormone replacement therapy was safe and would not lead to increased breast cancer rates.   In fact, women were told that taking these synthetic hormones would prevent heart disease.  At best, those statements were wishful thoughts, at worst they were lies.  During this time there were many studies which pointed to problems with conventional hormones.  However, doctors continued to prescribe conventional HRT to more and more women.  Unfortunately, now we are left to deal with the side effects.
In my lecture, I presented data (from the Women’s  Health Initiative) to the doctors about the numbers of women who developed breast cancer during the five years the subjects took the synthetic hormones.  The data showed breast cancer rates increasing about 26% during this time (as compared to women who did not take synthetic hormones).  Next, I showed the doctors a graph of the breast cancer rate for a 2.5 year period after the women were told to stop taking the synthetic hormones.  Breast cancer rates were reported to fall 27% during the time women stopped taking the synthetic hormones.
So, let’s think about these numbers (as I was thinking about them on the flight home).  Specifically, I was thinking about the 26% increase in breast cancer for those women given synthetic hormones and an almost identical decline in breast cancer rates after the women stopped taking them.      
What conclusions can you draw from this data?  A reasonable conclusion is that no woman should ever receive these items, under any condition.  However, that was not the FDA or conventional medicine’s conclusion. They concluded that women should be still be treated with these medications if they need them, but they should only take them for the shortest time needed.  What is the data that supports using conventional HRT for the shortest time needed?  You can guess the answer to this question;  there is no data supporting that statement.   
I say the FDA should have removed these toxic hormones from the market.  There is absolutely no indication to use these items when there are natural, bioidentical versions available.   The bioidentical hormones are clearly safer.  Furthermore,  they are effective at treating the signs and symptoms of menopause.  In the first edition of The Miracle of Natural Hormones, written in 1999 (before the Women’s Health Initiative), I advised women to avoid conventional hormone replacement therapy because there was an increased risk of side effects.  My second edition of this book provides more information on the safety and efficacy of bioidentical, natural, hormones and a further analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative.    
What can we take away from all of this?  We need to go back to using science and common sense. Common sense would dictate that when there are natural, bioidentical versions of hormones available, there is no need to consider using a synthetic version.  Science does support this common sense argument. 


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