12 February 2010
Women taking oestrogen alone for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are at significantly increased risk of developing asthma following menopause, new research shows (Thorax, online first).
Among 57,664 French women, born between 1925 and 1950, without asthma at menopause, the use of oestrogen alone was associated with a 54 per cent increased risk of asthma onset compared to non-users after 10 years.
The increased risk was greatest (about 80 per cent) in those who had never smoked and those who reported a history of allergic symptoms.
The recent use of any menopausal hormone therapy was associated with a 20 per cent increased risk of asthma onset among users, compared with non-users, after adjusting for age, body mass index (BMI) and oral contraceptive use.
Overall, no increased risk of asthma was found in women taking oestrogen plus progestin. (Oestrogen and progesterone are female sex hormones; progestin is a synthetic formulation of progesterone.)
Dr Elizabeth Farrell, head of the menopause clinic at Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, and a director of the Jean Hailes Foundation, said the findings were similar to those reported in the US Nurses’ Health Study.
This found the use of oestrogen alone or oestrogen plus progestin was associated with an increased risk of asthma.
The authors said the conflicting results could be due to differences in progesterone types used by US and French women and/or the ratio of oestrogen to progestin.
However, Dr Farrell said until the findings were backed by randomised evidence, they should not deter women from using HRT, especially given the absolute risk in the French study was 1.15 asthma cases per 1000 women per year.
Last Reviewed: 12 February 2010