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Study: Hormone Replacement Therapy May Increase Risk of Pancreatitis

Risk higher among women who use systemic therapy (January 27)

Women who use postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be at increased risk of acute pancreatitis, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Although several case reports have indicated that there may be an association between the use of HRT and the risk of acute pancreatitis, the evidence from large studies is sparse.

To understand whether there is an association, researchers looked at data from 31,494 Swedish postmenopausal women aged 48 to 83 years in a 13-year study (1997 to 2010). At the start of the study, 13,113 women (42%) were current users of HRT; 3,660 (12%) were previous users; and the remainder had never used the therapy. Of the current users of HRT, 6,795 (52%) used systemic therapy for hot flashes; 4,148 (32%) used local therapy for vaginal dryness; and 2,170 (16%) used both therapies.

After taking account of factors likely to influence the results, the researchers found that women who currently or previously had used HRT had an approximately 1.5 times greater risk of acute pancreatitis than had those who had never used the therapy. The risk appeared to be higher among women who used systemic therapy and those who had used HRT for more than 10 years.

“These findings, though speculative, may suggest that exogenous estrogen induces some persistent change in the pancreas for which the duration of exposure may be important,” the authors remarked.

Sources: CMAJ; January 27, 2014; and EurekaAlert; January 27, 2014.

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