Hormone replacement therapy: controversies, pros and cons

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Sep;18(3):317-32. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2004.02.005.


Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a complicated clinical issue that requires an in-depth risk/benefit assessment. The term HRT includes both oestrogen plus progestin therapy (OPT) and oestrogen-only therapy (OT). Much research has been done with the former, but additional research is still needed for the latter. This chapter aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the key risks and benefits in order to assist clinicians and patients confronting this issue. In approaching the vast amount of data on HRT a caveat is in order: many of the issues involved are not black and white. The clinical data are often conflicting and careful analysis is required. Despite the discrepancies between the various HRT studies, there is much to be gleaned from a close examination of the data. The primary risks associated with HRT use are related to breast cancer and cardiovascular health. Recent clinical trial data have pointed to a slight increase in the number of breast cancers among women using HRT compared to placebo. With regard to cardiovascular health, the data have shown an increase in stroke and (VTE) but there is also evidence of a possible cardioprotective effect. The major benefits include relief of menopausal symptoms (including vasomotor instability, sexual dysfunction, mood, fatigue and skin issues) and a decrease in fracture risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones / injuries
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control
  • Progestins / administration & dosage
  • Stroke / epidemiology


  • Progestins