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Hormone Therapy Linked to Acute Pancreatitis

Update Date: Jan 27, 2014 04:58 PM EST

Previous studies show that hormone replacement therapy can help prevent postmenopausal symptoms and breast cancer. However, new research reveals that it can also increase the risk of acute pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas. The symptoms can vary from mild discomfort to debilitating pain and, in some cases, the condition can even lead to lead.

 The latest study involved data from 31,494 Swedish postmenopausal women aged 48 years at the start of the 13-year study from 1997 to 2010.

Researchers said that 42 percent of the women used HRT at the start of the study, 12 percent were previous users and 46 percent never used HRT. Of the HRT users, 52 percent used systemic therapy for hot flashes, 32 percent used local therapy for vaginal dryness and 16 percent used both therapies.

After accounting for various confounding factors, investigators found that women who use or had used HRT had an approximately 1.5 greater risk of acute pancreatitis than those who had never used the therapy.

Researchers noted that the risk was higher among women who used systemic therapy and those who had used HRT for more than a decade.

"There are no contemporary data that might explain our finding that the risk was sustained among past users of [HRT] or that the risk seemed to increase with duration of use," researcher Dr. Viktor Oskarsson, Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, wrote in the study. "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 findings are published in the journal CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

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