HRT lowers risk of an early death, with study finding health benefits outweigh risks

During my career I was involved in the early research on HRT and was impressed with its ­effectiveness in treating menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and depression.

So impressed in fact, that I started taking it at the first symptom.

At the time I was doing a daily live TV news show and out of the blue my mind would slip into a black hole ­during an interview. I recognised it as the menopause, started HRT and three days later my brain was back on form.

HRT has always been controversial and there were conflicting reports about the long-term risk of breast ­cancer. There are benefits, however, to heart health.

Now, important research from the University of East Anglia puts a new gloss on HRT. It’s the first study to look at its impact on overall life expectancy and, reassuringly, it found HRT lowers the risk of an early death.

Researchers found healthy women taking combined HRT benefit from a 9% reduction in the overall risk of death from all causes.

Just as importantly, healthy women taking oestrogen-only HRT suffer no increase in risk of death from all causes. Professor Elena Kulinskaya, from UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, said: “All-cause mortality is the crucial endpoint that essentially summarises the net effect of HRT but was rarely analysed in the past.”

The study covered 105,199 healthy women aged between 46 and 65 with an average follow-up of 13 years, comparing them to 224,643 non-users.

The UEA research is robust because it takes account of many confounding factors like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, BMI, smoking and deprivation status.

Professor Nicholas Steel of UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: “It’s exciting that this new research found that combined HRT use was linked to an overall lower risk of death, and that oestrogen-only HRT was not linked to an increased risk of death.”

Prof Kulinskaya added: “Despite the effectiveness of HRT in relieving menopausal symptoms, many women are not willing to receive HRT because of the controversial results on its risks.

“The untreated menopausal symptoms eventually increase the risks of other health conditions, such as ­osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and incur additional costs to the healthcare systems.”

Researcher Nurunnahar Akter, also from UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, said: “Our new findings that oestrogen-only HRT has no impact on all-cause mortality, and combined HRT reduces the risk, confirm that the overall benefits of HRT outweigh the harms and should be provided to women and clinical decision makers when deciding whether to start or continue HRT.”