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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 10:37 GMT
HRT 'no boost to life quality'
Women take HRT for menopausal symptoms
Taking hormone replacement therapy does not improve a healthy woman's quality of life, researchers suggest.

HRT is taken by women to help them cope with the symptoms of the menopause - and experts say these women will feel better.

But it had been thought HRT could also help postmenopausal women who had no symptoms feel better, giving them more energy and increasing their libido.

A US study found there was no extra benefit seen in this group of women.

It found taking HRT did not improve general health, energy, mental health, memory or sexual functioning after a year, compared with those who took a dummy pill.

But they said HRT will improve women's quality of life is when it is being used as a short-term therapy to treat hot flushes and night-sweats.

The findings have been published online by the New England Journal of Medicine two months ahead of schedule because of their health implications.

Sleep patterns

Researchers studied more than 16,000 healthy women aged between 50 and 79.

The women were randomly assigned to either receive a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, or a placebo.

There is no role for hormone therapy in the treatment of women without menopausal symptoms
Deborah Grady, University of California
The researchers asked women about their quality of life after a year, and from a smaller group of just over 1,500 after three years.

They were asked detailed questions about their health, including sleep patterns, bodily pain, and sexual functioning.

Researchers used a commonly used scale to assess the women's quality of life called the Rand-36 health survey.

They found that even among the youngest women who had experienced the most severe symptoms, the only improvement seen was a 5% improvement in sleep disturbance after a year.

The researchers say their findings do not apply to women taking an oestrogen-only pill, or those who need medical treatment for their menopausal symptoms.

'Laid to rest'

Dr Jennifer Hays who led the study, said: "The WHI results show that for most women, combination oestrogen and progesterone therapy is not going to make a difference in how women feel.

"The study indicated if you are taking this just because you think you might be missing out on something if you don't, you should stop."

Writing in an editorial in the NEJM, Dr Deborah Grady of the University of California, San Francisco, said a persistent argument for taking HRT had been that they make older women feel better.

"This claim has now been laid to rest by the new results," she said.

She added: "There is no role for hormone therapy in the treatment of women without menopausal symptoms."

'No symptoms'

Dr Malcolm Whitehead, a UK expert in HRT treatment: "This study is of an apparently fit and healthy population of North American women.

"They didn't have to be oestrogen deficient or have any symptoms to be involved in the study.

"Clearly, if you don't have symptoms of oestrogen lack, it's unlikely that giving oestrogen is going to make you feel better."

This is the second set of findings to be published by the Women's Health Initiative study, led by doctors at the Center for Women's Health at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

In the first research, published last year, the WHI found taking the combined HRT could increase a woman's risk of heart attack, breast cancer and stroke.

The study was stopped three years early after the US National Institutes of Health ruled the risks of continuing outweighed the benefits.

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