Objective: To compare all-cause and specific-cause mortality rates in women who had or had not used long-term postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).
Methods: We identified women who used long-term postmenopausal ERT and compared them with a sample of age-matched postmenopausal nonusers. Through linking of these subjects' medical record numbers to various data bases, we examined survivorship and cause of death among estrogen users and nonusers. The risk of death in 232 postmenopausal women who began ERT within 3 years of menopause and used it for at least 5 years was compared with that of 222 age-matched postmenopausal nonusers. In the users, the mean length of estrogen use was 17.1 years.
Results: Statistically significant reductions in all-cause mortality were found in users compared with nonusers. For death from any cause, the age-adjusted relative risk (RR) and associated 95% confidence interval (CI) in estrogen users was 0.54 (0.38-0.76). The reduction in all-cause mortality was largely due to reductions in coronary heart disease (RR 0.40, CI 0.16-1.02) and other cardiovascular disease (RR 0.27, CI 0.10-0.71). Overall cancer mortality was similar in the two groups (RR 0.85, CI 0.46-1.58), although estrogen users had a higher risk of death from breast cancer (RR 1.89, CI 0.43-8.36) and lower risk of death from lung cancer (RR 0.22, CI 0.04-1.15).
Conclusion: Long-term ERT use is associated with lower all-cause mortality and confers this apparent protection primarily through reduction in cardiovascular disease.