Doctor with female patient
Estrogens are a group of hormones that play an important role in the normal sexual and reproductive development in women. They are also sex hormones. The woman's ovaries make most estrogen hormones, although the adrenal glands and fat cells also make small amounts of the hormones.
In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, estrogen affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain. Secondary sexual characteristics also begin to grow when estrogen levels rise, such as pubic and armpit hair. Many organ systems, including the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, and the brain are affected by estrogen.
Here are some suggestions for women who are deciding whether or not to use postmenopausal hormone therapy:
- Because the study involved healthy women, only a small number of them had either a negative or positive effect from estrogen plus progestin therapy. The percentages describe what would happen to a whole population - not to an individual woman. In the estrogen plus progestin therapy study the increase risk of breast cancer was eight additional cases for every 10,000 women over one year; there was a 24 percent increase overall, while the estrogen only therapy reduced the risk of breast cancer.
- The most important thing a woman can do in deciding to continue hormone replacement therapy is discuss the current research with her healthcare provider and healthcare team.
- Women need to be aware that taking a combined progesterone and estrogen regimen or estrogen alone is no longer recommended to prevent heart disease. A woman should discuss other alternatives of protecting the heart with her health care provider.
- Women should discuss with their healthcare providers the value of taking combined progesterone and estrogen replacement therapy or estrogen to prevent osteoporosis. There may be alternative treatments based on a woman’s health profile.