FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Getting low-dose hormone replacement therapy through a skin patch may reduce a woman's risk for stroke, but high-dose patches could actually raise the risk, a new study suggests.
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Many women take hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms, but some studies have linked the treatment to an increased risk for stroke.
For the new study, researchers reviewed a British database of medical records from 1987 and 2006, focusing on 15,710 cases in which a woman between the ages of 50 and 79 had a stroke. They compared the women with 59,958 other women.
Women who used low-dose patches were at no greater risk for stroke than were women who didn't use patches, the study found, but use of high-dose patches upped the odds of stroke by 88%. Taking hormone therapy orally, meanwhile, increased the risk by 25 to 30%, compared with the risk for women who didn't take hormone replacement in pill form. Dosage and formulation -- whether the oral therapy was estrogen alone or in combination with progesterone -- were found to have no bearing on the results.
Taking hormone replacement pills for less than a year did not boost risk for stroke, according to the study, but the risk rose by 35% for women who took the pills for longer than a year.
The study authors cautioned that their research alone doesn't definitively prove that patches are healthier than pills.
The findings were published online June 4 in BMJ.
-- Randy Dotinga
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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, June 3, 2010