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When faced with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, many women opt for hormone therapy in order to reduce these symptoms. But it turns out there’s another benefit to this therapy as well. A recent study shows that menopausal hormone therapy can also have a positive impact on bone mass and structure. Menopausal hormone therapy can serve not only as a way to reduce symptoms of menopause, but to prevent or treat osteoporosis, a condition that is common in women. Osteoporosis affects one out of two women over the age of 50, so this is good news.

While the study is the first one to find the impact menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) can have on bone mass and structure, there have been previous studies that showed the positive impact of MHT of bone mineral density. The recent study also found that the bone health benefits of MHT persist for at least two years after a woman terminates treatment.

According to the study’s first author, Georgios Papadakis, MD of the Lausanne University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, postmenopausal hormonal therapy is effective to prevent and treat osteoporosis when used in women younger than 60 years old for whom the benefits outweigh the risks. Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that causes the bones to become structurally weak, making them more likely to break or fracture. Menopause significantly speeds up the process of bone deterioration. The human body is in a constant state of breaking down and building new bone tissues over time. When an imbalance occurs in the breakdown and the formation of bones, bone mass decreases, often leading to osteoporosis and an increased likelihood of bone fractures.

This cross-sectional study used data from the OsteoLaus cohort. This cohort was made up of 1,279 women between the ages of 50 to 80 living in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. These women were divided up into three categories. 30 percent of the were past users of menopausal hormone therapy, 22 were undergoing the therapy during the study, and 48 percent of the women had never used menopausal hormone therapy.

The researchers did dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans of the lumbar spine, hip, and femoral neck. They used these scans to assess bone mineral density and to ultimately come to a conclusion regarding whether or not the menopausal hormone therapy influenced bone health. Each participant was assigned a Trabecular Bone Score based on the scan results. This score assessed the quality of their underlying bone structure. The Trabecular Bone Score can be utilized to predict the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women.

Body mass index and age were both major factors used in the study. Other variables included the current or past use of supplements such as calcium or vitamin D, and a participant’s history of fractures. For 1,204 out of the 1,279 women, blood test results for vitamin D levels were factored into the study as well.

The researchers found that the women currently using menopausal hormone therapy had higher Trabecular Bone Scores compared to past users or women who had never used menopausal hormone therapy. Current users had bone mass density values significantly higher than those of the other two groups. Past users had a higher bone mass density than those who had never used MHT. Past users also exhibited a trend for higher bone microarchitecture values than women who hadn’t used MHT. The researchers added that the duration of the menopausal hormone therapy had no effect on bone health.

The findings of this study are extremely important for women going through menopause. The results show the menopausal hormone treatment can lessen menopause symptoms while also preventing osteoporosis. If we can use this therapy to eliminate a common bone disease among women, the field of women’s health may transform for the better.