Objective: Research comparing hormone therapy (HT) doses, regimens, and routes of delivery in relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes has been limited. This study directly compared different estrogen doses, routes of delivery, and HT formulations in postmenopausal women in relation to the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, CVD mortality, total CVD, and all-cause mortality.
Methods: The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study is a multicenter prospective cohort study that was conducted at 40 US sites. Analyses included 93,676 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years at study entry who were recruited from September 1994 to December 1998, with annual follow-up through August 14, 2009.
Results: The mean follow-up was 10.4 years. In direct comparisons, oral estradiol was associated with lower hazard ratios (HRs) for stroke than oral conjugated equine estrogens (CEE; HR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.40-1.02), but statistical power was limited. Similarly, transdermal estradiol was associated with a moderate but nonsignificantly lower risk of CHD compared with oral CEE (HR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.37-1.06). For other outcomes, comparisons revealed no appreciable differences by estrogen doses, formulations, or routes of delivery. Absolute risks of CVD events and all-cause mortality were markedly lower in younger women compared with older women.
Conclusions: In direct comparisons, various HT doses and regimens are associated with similar rates of cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality. However, oral estradiol may be associated with a lower risk of stroke, and transdermal estradiol may be associated with a lower risk of CHD, compared with conventional-dose oral CEE. Additional research is needed to confirm these hypotheses.