Menopausal women can improve their bone mass and bone structure by undergoing hormone therapy suggests new research published on Thursday.
Taken for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, previous research has already revealed the benefits of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) on bone mineral density. However, this is the first study to show that MHT can also improve bone mass and structure.
Carried out by a team from the Lausanne University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, the cross-sectional study used data from the OsteoLaus cohort, which consisted of 1,279 women ages 50 to 80 living in Lausanne.
The participants were divided into three categories — 22 percent were undergoing MHT during the study, 30 percent were past users and 48 percent of women had never used MHT.
To measure any changes to bone health the team took dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans of the participants' lumbar spine, femoral neck and hip to assess bone mineral density.
Using these scans the researchers then assigned each participant with a Trabecular Bone Score, which assessed the quality of their underlying bone structure, and can also be used to predict risk of bone fractures in postmenopausal women.
The team also took into account participants' age, body mass index, history of fractures, and the use of supplements such as calcium and/or vitamin D, with blood tests taken for vitamin D levels from 1,204 out of the 1,279 participants.
The results showed that current MHT users had higher Trabecular Bone Scores than past users or women who had never used MHT and significantly higher bone mass density values.
Past users also showed higher bone mass density and a better bone structure when compared to women who had never used MHT.
The researchers noted that the length of MHT had no effect on bone health.
"When used in the right context, specifically in postmenopausal women younger than 60 years old for whom the benefits outweigh risks, menopausal hormonal therapy is effective for both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis," said the study's first author, Georgios Papadakis, "Women at menopause should take note of this study, because its results can help optimize the use of menopausal hormone treatment in women at risk of osteoporosis," he added.
Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bones become weaker and are more likely to fracture or break. Menopause, which often occurs when a woman is in her 40s or 50s, can significantly speed up this bone loss.
The findings can be found published online in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.