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CNN Today

Study Finds Estrogen Replacement Therapy Fails to Slow Progression of Heart Disease in Older Women

Aired March 13, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Surprising results of new research on estrogen and heart disease. A study by Wake Forest University found that estrogen replacement therapy failed to slow the progression of heart disease, let alone reverse it in older women with partially clogged arteries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID HERRINGTON, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY: We looked very carefully at the arteries in their heart at the beginning of the study, and then three years later, and we looked to see whether or not there were changes in the arteries during that period of time. Overall, we found that treatment with estrogen by itself or estrogen plus the progesten did not slow the progression of heart disease in these women who already had established narrowings in the arteries to their heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Well, these findings contradict what a lot of doctors have long believed.

Joining us now to talk more about it, CNN medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland.

ALLEN: Rhonda, are researchers surprised by these findings?

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, they are surprised. In fact, one researcher said they are very disappointed. The findings were somewhat unexpected because there's a large body of evidence that has suggested that hormone replacement therapy may be beneficial to the heart.

It's important to note, though, that today's study is actually the second major study that's come to the same conclusion; that is, at least in women who already have heart disease, estrogen does not appear to be beneficial.

ALLEN: How did they get to the point that they believed that this helped women suffering from heart disease?

ROWLAND: That's an important question, Natalie, because this is what can be very frustrating and confusing for the consumer. It's part of the scientific process. That is, they did some large studies called observational studies where they happen to notice that many women who did not have heart disease also happened to take estrogen.

Now, this study was done in a specific way to study this question, whether or not it really does have the effect. So this study has more weight than these other studies that do no establish cause and effect.

ALLEN: Hope they can get it all sorted out.

One more question: What should women do now as a result with these findings? And is there anything that shows that estrogen can help young healthy women -- help them prevent heart disease?

ROWLAND: That's also another very important point. This study was not done in health women, so the question of whether or not estrogen can help healthy women prevent or reduce their chances of heart disease has not been answered yet. And there is a large study under way, but won't be completed for another five years. So, in the meantime, Natalie, doctors say there are many good reasons to take estrogen, but women should not base their decision, at least for now, on the belief that estrogen may protect the heart.

ALLEN: All right, Rhonda Rowland. As always, check with your doctor every time you hear about new studies on television.

ROWLAND: That's right.

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