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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Good news for women in their 50s - the health risks related to hormone therapy with estrogen, aimed at treating menopause symptoms, might go away after women stop the treatments, according to a study.
Research focusing on more than 7,000 women showed that while both stroke and blood clots increased during treatment with estrogen, there was no significant difference in health risks after 10 years between those who took hormones for treatment and those who hadn't, the study -- published in the Journal of the American Medical Association -- said.
"But that doesn't mean continuing to take them for five to 10 years won't have some health risks emerge," said Graham Colditz, at the Washington University School of Medicine, who wrote an editorial published with the study.
The study centered on some of the women who had also participated in the U.S. government-funded Women's Health Initiative, the study that first raised concerns about the safety of hormone therapy.
In 2004, data from the WHI showed that taking estrogen by itself increased women's risk of stroke and didn't reduce their risk of coronary heart disease.
The 7,645 women in the study had all undergone hysterectomies before joining the WHI, and were assigned to a group that received estrogen pills. They were followed for 10 years -- six of estrogen treatment with Premarin, and four years after ending the treatment.
During the treatment, their risk of stroke was 36 percent more likely and blood clots was 47 percent more likely in the estrogen group versus a group that took placebos.
But after 10 years, there was no significant difference between the groups in these conditions.
For women in their 50s, estrogen treatment even appeared to have some benefits over time, being linking to a 46 percent drop in the risk of a heart attack and a 27 percent drop in the risk of dying after 10 years.
Women in their 70s, though, did not get the same benefits, and for some conditions their risks rose if they took estrogen.
"If you're a woman in your 70s, there's very little reason to initiate estrogen," said Andrea LaCroix for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the lead author of the study.
The risk of breast cancer in this study appeared to be the same between women who took estrogen and those who didn't, though other studies have found a link between breast cancer and hormone therapy.
Reporting by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies