Hormone supplements may be linked to yet another health problem in women: asthma. A study found that women who use hormones during menopause run double the risk of developing the respiratory ailment. The study was not as rigorous as landmark research halted in 2002 after more hormone users developed heart problems and breast cancer than women given dummy pills. And the overall risk of developing asthma late in life is slim. Still, the findings might be something women will want to consider when debating whether to take hormones for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, said lead researcher R. Graham Barr of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.
"For women who have severe asthma that develops later in life, they may want to consider a trial of stopping hormone replacement therapy to see if this alleviates their condition," Barr said. The study was part of the Nurses' Health Study by Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital and involved more than 70,000 women in their 40s and older. They were questioned about hormone use and any diagnosis of asthma. They were followed for about 10 years, until 1998. During that time, 342 women developed asthma. Current users of either estrogen alone or estrogen plus progestin supplements were about twice as likely to develop asthma than nonusers. The increased risk was found mainly among current users, not past users, suggesting that stopping hormone treatment can even the odds, Barr said.
The study follows the government's landmark Women's Health Initiative study, which reported the link with heart problems and breast cancer and led many doctors to recommend limiting hormone treatment to low-dose, short-term use for menopause symptoms.