Study adds incontinence to risks of hormone pills
Hardly necessary, but read below for yet another nail in the HRT coffin! - Lynette
Thursday March 3 2005
Study adds incontinence to risks of hormone pills Older women using the drugs are more likely to develop a problem
By LINDSEY TANNER
CHICAGO - A new study adds incontinence to the list of ailments that hormone
pills had been thought to help prevent, but now appear to worsen, at least
in older women.
Estrogen pills with or without progestin increased postmenopausal women's
risk of developing incontinence, and also appeared to make it worse in women
who already had the vexing problem.
The findings came from the same landmark government study that in the past
few years linked the widely used supplements to a higher risk of heart
attacks, strokes, breast cancer and dementia.
"We were hoping to find a gleam of hope for estrogen" after all the earlier
negative findings, but the results with incontinence were disappointing,
too, said lead author Dr. Susan Hendrix, a gynecologist at Wayne State
The findings, published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Journal of the American
Medical Association, come from research on 27,347 women, ages 50 to 79,
participating in the Women's Health Initiative study.
Compared with women taking dummy pills, those on estrogen pills for one year
were 53 percent more likely to develop urinary incontinence by year's end.
Those on pills containing both estrogen and progestin faced a 39 percent
The highest risks were for stress incontinence — urine leakage prompted by
pressure on the lower abdomen from sneezing, laughing, coughing or walking.
It can result from weak pelvic muscles.
Women taking estrogen pills faced more than double the risk of developing
stress incontinence, and risks were almost as high for women on pills
containing both hormones.
Also, women who already had any incontinence faced increased risks of it
worsening after a year — a nearly 60 percent higher risk for those on
estrogen-only pills and a 20 percent higher risk for those on combined pills.
Some previous studies and anecdotal reports suggested potential benefits
from hormones, and many doctors have prescribed them for the condition.
The pills are approved for treating menopause symptoms such as vaginal
dryness, and hormones' beneficial effects on vaginal tissues were thought to
extend to the bladder.
Dr. Ginger Constantine of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which makes the pills used
in the study, said the new results are inconclusive because the study was
designed to gauge health risks other than incontinence.
Nationwide, prescriptions for hormone supplements fell from 16 million in
the first half of 2002, before the first results from the government study
were released, to about 11 million in the first half of 2004, according to
About 25 percent of women who quit hormones have resumed taking them, said
the pharmaceutical company, which has begun offering a new low-dose pill.