Doctor's View Archive

Hormone Creams - Safe & Effective?

Medical Author: Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, MS, FACP
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Hormone therapy, or HT, is often prescribed for women to ease the symptoms of menopause, i.e., hot flashes. Hormone therapy with estrogen given by mouth (oral estrogens), by a patch placed on the skin, or by certain prescription vaginal estrogen rings, can relieve menopausal hot flashes. However, due to controversies regarding the possible dangers of long-term use of oral estrogen , other methods of giving the hormone are being sought.

Potentially adverse effects of oral estrogens include pre-cancers of the uterus (tissue in the womb that may become cancerous in time) in women with an intact uterus. This risk can be counteracted completely by the use of progesterone along with estrogen. However, long-term oral estrogen use, especially in combination with progesterone, may increase the risk of breast cancer. This risk seems to begin after 5 years of use. Some doctors and the women they treat hope that giving estrogen topically, meaning through the skin, may reduce some of the potential side effects of estrogen.