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Hormone Therapy for Menopause Not Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Risk

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Hormone Therapy for Menopause Not Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Hormone replacement therapy for women going through menopause doesn’t appear to affect the risk for either type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in the journal Menopause.

Hormone therapy for menopause usually consists of a form of estrogen — taken by mouth, by injection, transdermally (as a patch, gel, or cream), or vaginally (as a suppository, cream, or ring) — that is intended to reduce unpleasant symptoms like hot flashes or vaginal dryness. While there are risks associated with hormone therapy for menopause, there isn’t much evidence from prior research that diabetes is likely to be one of them. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that estrogen therapy might even reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. But since type 2 diabetes commonly develops after menopause — the risk goes up with increasing age — it makes sense to look at whether any factors associated with menopause, such as hormone therapy, might have an effect on diabetes risk.

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For the latest study, researchers were interested in finding out whether women who underwent hormone therapy were at any greater, or lower, risk for type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease after menopause. They used data from 2002 to 2016 from a Korean National Health Insurance Service database, which included 58,060 postmenopausal women who underwent hormone therapy during menopause as well as 50,047 who didn’t undergo hormone therapy. As noted in a Healio article on the study, participants were between ages 40 and 69 when they began menopause, and hormone therapy recipients received prescriptions for at least 28 days during the study period. Hormone therapy in the study consisted of either estrogen only, combined estrogen and progestogen, tibolone (a synthetic option), or a combination of these therapy types.

No statistically significant link found between HRT and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease

After adjusting for many different factors that could affect the risk for type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, the researchers found only weak associations between hormone therapy and these risks. Women who underwent hormone therapy were 8.5% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 10.4% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes — small enough differences that they weren’t statistically significant, meaning they could have been due to chance or factors other than hormone therapy.

What’s more, there was no observed difference in the risk for cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes based on the type of hormone therapy, the duration of hormone therapy, or the number of years since women went through menopause. The researchers noted that while no benefit was seen from hormone therapy on the risk for type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, it appears that potential concerns about an increased risk for these conditions shouldn’t stop women or their doctors from considering this therapy as an option for unpleasant symptoms during menopause.

Want to learn more about menopause and diabetes? Read “Dealing With Menopause: How Nutrition Can Help” and “Diabetes and Menopause.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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