The latest consensus development conference at the National Institutes of Health tackled the thorny problem of estrogen replacement therapy for postmenopausal women.
Those at the meeting, sponsored by the National Institute of Aging, concluded that exogenous estrogens clearly have been shown to increase the risk of endometrial cancer. The hormones are effective, however, in controlling the vasomotor symptoms, atrophy of vaginal epithelium, and osteoporosis that often accompany menopause.
Still, aside from discouraging high-dose or longterm use of estrogen therapy, the consensus panel refrained from formulating specific guidelines for the prescribing of estrogens for postmenopausal women. They concluded, rather, that physicians should discuss the benefits and risks of the treatment with each patient and then leave the final decision up to her.
Currently fewer than 7 million of the more than 30 million American women past menopause are using estrogens. In contrast, about 20 million prescriptions for the various estrogen compounds