For over a decade, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been used to help women regulate their hormone levels to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and hysterectomy surgery. As part of an HRT regimen, many women are placed on estrogen pills. These pills can boost energy, increase libido and eliminate hot flashes. However, no medications are taken without risks. These five risks of taking estrogen pills are among the most severe and common to watch for.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study revealing that taking estrogen and progesterone combination pills may increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by 85 percent. Conversely, a more recent study released by the Women’s Health Initiative showed that estrogen-only pills did not increase the risk of breast cancer. However, estrogen-only pills did increase the number of abnormal mammography scans and breast biopsies. The rates of malignancy were the same as women taking a placebo.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of adult women in the United States. High levels of C-reactive protein have been shown to be a contributing factor for developing heart disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has illustrated that estrogen pills, unlike estrogen patches, increase the levels of C-reactive protein. While this particular study did not examine the long-term effects of the estrogen pills, it is hypothesized that continued use of these pills could result in heart disease.
The risk of stroke is something that should be taken seriously when considering the risks of taking estrogen pills. A study of the effects of estrogen-only pills, performed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was cut short when the risk of stroke from the medication was deemed too great. This was a long-term study that drew to a close after seven years.
A venous thrombosis is a type of blood clot that appears in a vein. These blood clots can travel to the heart, lungs or brain, causing an embolism. While women are already more susceptible to venous thrombosis than men, women taking estrogen pills are at an even greater risk for developing one of these potentially dangerous blood clots. If considering an estrogen supplement, inform your physician of any history of blood clots.
A Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study showed that women over the age of 65 who were taking estrogen pills were twice as likely as other women to develop dementia disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. Women taking estrogen pills were also more likely to develop mild impairments of memory than women taking a placebo. These memory problems can result in a complete loss of short-term memory making it one of the largest risks of taking estrogen pills.